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Discussing “climate refugees” at the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights

In the field of disaster displacement, the phrase “climate refugee” is typically cloaked by quotation marks and followed by the caveat that no such definition is recognized by international law.

Contributing to the 16th International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva (FIFDH) last month, the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) supported the Philanthropia Foundation to present a panel discussing just that. PDD advisory member, Dr. Robin Bronen, Executive Director of the Alaska Institute for Justice, was joined by Jill Helke, Director of the Department of International Cooperation and Partnerships of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Major General ANM Muniruzzaman, Chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC) and former Military Advisor to the President of Bangladesh (PDD Chair) and Nazhat Shameem Khan, Ambassador of the Republic of Fiji (PDD Steering Group member) in Geneva , in a discussion entitled “Climate Refugees”: Drop the Quotation Marks!.

The media often equates environmental consequences relating to climate change with the fate of polar bears or the impact of sudden-onset disasters, like hurricanes or floods. What about the impact of warmer temperatures in Alaskan communities where winter rains, above-average ground temperatures and decreased sea ice are causing severe impacts?

Speaking from firsthand experience, Dr. Bronen was able to share what it is like to see such environmental change, providing a personal narrative alongside the outcomes from the 2017 Arctic Report Card published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With regard to the human impacts, Dr. Bronen strongly noted that we are no longer experiencing merely a climate crisis, but rather a humanitarian one. Unusual Arctic conditions are not only affecting Alaskans, but have broader consequences across the globe, especially when considering the effect of melting of sea ice on sea level rise and how that contributes to the displacement of communities living along coastlines.

Prior to the event, Dr. Bronen met with our colleagues at the International Office for Migration to share about her work at the Alaska Institute for Justice where she is currently working with 15 Alaska Native communities in designing and implementing community based relocation plans that emphasize the protection of their human rights. The interview can be found on the PDD youtube channel and on the right-hand column of this page.

An interview with Robin Bronen, PDD Advisory Committee Member

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