Our VoiceNews & Politics

International groups call for U.N. protocol on climate refugees

Guest Blogger • Feb 01, 2011

by Martha Pskowski

Credit: Piotr Fajfer / Oxfam International

The global community has issued a call for a new protocol on immigration, as climate change threatens developing countries, that the United Nations must heed.

At the recent climate talks in Cancún, the Equity and Justice Working Group of Bangladesh (EquityBD) and other groups drew attention to the problem of climate-induced migration.

Residents of Bangladesh and other low-lying and island nations risk being displaced as sea levels rise due to climate change. As many as three in five Bangladeshis will have abandoned their homes by the year 2050 because of climate change, according to the British government’s Stern Report.

The world needs to recognize the predicaments and the rights of these Bangladeshis and others who flee from floods and droughts.

The current U.N. framework for refugees does not recognize such migrants. They do not meet the U.N.’s definition of refugees: those who flee their country because of persecution by their state based on race, religion, political opinion, or ethnicity, and therefore need special protections.

Since 2009, EquityBD has gathered the signatures of about 100 prominent organizations from Asia, Africa and Latin America for a new U.N. protocol that would grant such migrants “a dignified status ‘Universal Natural Person’ with social, cultural and economic rights.”

The voices of civil society from developing nations have been historically marginalized at U.N. proceedings.  However, these groups represent the people most vulnerable to climate change.   The United States and other industrialized nations are responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions and must take responsibility for the welfare of people displaced by climate change.

Recognizing their rights is a crucial first step.

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