|Environmental Impact of Sudden Population Displacements - Expert Consultation on Priority Policy Issues and Humanitarian Aid (European Commission Humanitarian Office, 1995, 28 p.)|
|3. OVERVIEW OF POLICY ISSUES|
Disasters receive disproportionate attention by the international community. This is a result of media attention, as well as of institutional behaviour. With reference to the latter, in understanding the current governmental/international approach to disasters, it is important to recognise that current institutions define problems in terms of what they can do rather than in terms of what is effectively needed. In the last fifteen years we have seen a fundamental shift away from emergency assistance towards an integration of aid and development. Yet in general, organisations that are dedicated to dealing with humanitarian assistance have a tendency to consider problems as defined by the role expected of them and which they are capable - within given political constraints - of delivering. They are constrained from seeing a broader picture in which emergencies might be a relatively much less significant. With reference to prevention of complex emergencies, why are so few resources allocated to such actions? Part of the answer to this question is that institutions are constrained by diplomacy, and the principle of the nation state. Responses to disasters are therefore opportunity- and capability-driven, rather than needs-driven.
How do we add, therefore, environmental management as part of emergency response, without institutional self-justification? In addition, why is it necessary to specifically recognise the environment as a category to signify problems when dealing with disaster emergencies? In other words, would such money be better spent elsewhere on environmental issues? Is it possible to treat environmental issues within the framework of the normal processes and aid efforts that are under way in emergencies, and without significantly adding to costs, or shifting the burden on the environment elsewhere?
Finally, five policy objectives were proposed:
- Assist in removing or reducing the threat that has caused expulsion;
- Provide safe and healthy environment for the duration of the expulsion;
- Deliver and maintain supplies as necessary for the welfare of refugees and minimising animosity of host people;
- Minimise activities by displaced people that have a negative environmental impact;
- Where repatriation is likely to be impossible or to take a long time, the negotiation with prior users for access to environmental resources that minimises conflict with host communities.