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close this bookEnvironmental Impact of Sudden Population Displacements - Expert Consultation on Priority Policy Issues and Humanitarian Aid (European Commission Humanitarian Office, 1995, 28 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
close this folder2. OPENING STATEMENTS
View the document2.1. Statement by Mr. E. Thielmann (ECHO III-Brussels)
View the document2.2. Statement by Dr D. Guha-Sapir (Université Catholique de Louvain - Brussels)
close this folder3. OVERVIEW OF POLICY ISSUES
View the document(introduction...)
View the document3.1. Environment and Sudden Population Displacement: Policy Issues for Humanitarian Action and Development Programmes (D. Guha-Sapir, Université Catholique de Louvain and M. Salih, Institute of Social Studies-The Hague)
View the document3.2. What Makes Emergencies Different? Interrelations of Development, Environment and Disasters (T. Cannon, University of Greenwich-London)
View the document3.3. Environmental Issues: UNHCR’s Experience and Response (R. Thiadens and H. Mori, UNHCR-Geneva)
View the document3.4. Environmental Change in Refugee Affected Areas: Research Needs and Future Directions (R. Black, University of Sussex-Brighton)
close this folder4. CASE STUDIES (SUMMARIES)
View the document4.1. Cooking Energy for Refugees: The Cases of Zaire and Kenya (A. Klingshirn and T. Hoerz, GTZ-Eschborn)
View the document4.2. Impact of Humanitarian Crises on Ecosystems (U. Bloesch, Swiss Disaster Relief-Bern)
View the document4.3. Environmental Health and Environmental Impact: Policy and Practice in Emergency Water Supply (P. Sherlock, Oxfam-Oxford)
View the document4.4. Environmental Impact of Refugees in Africa: Some Suggestions for Future Actions (Oweyegha-Afunaduula, University of Makerere-Kampala)
View the document4.5. When Refugees Stream: Environmental and Political Implications of Population Displacement (Shin-wha Lee, Harvard University-Cambridge)
View the document6.1. Principle
close this folder6.2. Time framework and policy parameters
View the documenti. Preparedness Phase
View the documentii. Emergency Phase
View the documentiii. Relief Phase (care and maintenance)
close this folder6.3. Urgent policy concerns
View the documenti. Energy
View the documentii. Shelter
View the documentiii. Agriculture
View the documentiv. Site and size of settlements
View the documentv. Indigenous knowledge
View the documentvi. Research and impact assessment
close this folder6.4 Institutions, resources and technical interventions
View the documenti. Institutional issues
View the documentii. Resource competition concerns
View the documentiii. Technical issues
close this folderANNEXES
View the document1. Selected Bibliography
View the document2. List of Participants
View the document3. Support Staff
View the document4. Programme and Presentations

3.3. Environmental Issues: UNHCR’s Experience and Response (R. Thiadens and H. Mori, UNHCR-Geneva)

UNHCR is faced with the field realities of population displacements and sought early on to include environmental management into its programmes. Currently, UNHCR is trying to develop guidelines that are both practicable and cost-effective.

A. The policy applies to environmental issues associated with the presence of refugees. Among environmental problems associated with refugee situations, the major ones are: deforestation, soil erosion and depletion and degradation of water, as well as the socio-economic impacts of such problems on refugees and local communities.

Basic environmental policies

Environmental concerns need to be reflected in major activities with its integration implementation of UNHCR’s programmes.

Prevention should be the norm, rather than cure, because the natural environments cannot be recreated or replaced by humanity.

Preventive environmental measures can reduce the total cost of refugee operations making them more cost effective in the long run.

Participation of all concerned (displaced persons including women and children, implementing agencies) is essential to ensure sustainability.

The following organisational principles were presented within the context of the above guidelines: (i) All environment-related action required during the emergency and care-and maintenance phases should be an integrated part of the response of UNHCR and budgeted accordingly under Special or General Programmes as applicable; (ii) The role of actors in addressing environmental concerns specific to refugee situations should be defined according to their relationship to environmental problems linked to refugees, and to the resources they may contribute to developing solutions to those problems; (iii) Since major components of camp operations, such as site selection and layout, are decided at this stage, UNHCR’s operations in the emergency phase must be designed to take environmental factors into account effectively; (iv) Sound environmental management must be introduced and maintained in the care-and-maintenance phase; (v) The environmental damage left by refugees must be repaired, when necessary, in the light of future development plans for the area concerned.

B. To implement the organisational principles outlined above, a number of operational outcomes have been identified:

Emergency phase (i) Integration: e.g. inclusion of environmental concerns in the Handbook for Emergencies; inclusion of an environmental specialist in the emergency team. (ii) Co-ordination: establishment of a working relationship with the environmental authorities in the host government. (iii) Training of emergency team staff in environmental principles of site selection, design and emergency operations. (iv) Creation of an environmental data base, which should provide up-to-date information for emergency planning purposes.

Care-and-maintenance phase: (i) Integration: environmental co-ordinator for situations that have serious impacts on the environment; preparation of an Environmental Strategy and Action Plan. (ii) a local environmental task force for regular co-ordination among major actors concerned; (iii) a section on environment and an environmental clause in the budget submission and in all related project agreements, (iv) promotion of applied research for new technical solutions to environmental problems (v) co-ordination of policy and planning with other UN agencies and donors; (vi) participation of NGOs according to their specific technical capacities and involvement of refugees and local communities in management of environmental projects; (vii) establishment of a staff training programme; (viii) inclusion of environmental data in UNHCR statistical report; promotion of refugee-related environmental information.

Some durable solutions were proposed to mitigate the environmental damage. These were: (i) introduction of a limited environmental rehabilitation scheme and development of an environmental rehabilitation plan to keep a sound co-ordination among all related activities, (ii) Large-scale rehabilitation schemes: preparation of an environmental rehabilitation programme in collaboration with the host government, other UN agencies and donors, where extensive rehabilitation is needed.

The above reflects the increasingly focused UNHCR policy on refugees and environmental issues. It also lays the basis for practical, definite guidelines to give effect to that policy.