Global policy debates, mobility and natural hazards

Global policy debates, mobility and natural hazards
9 December 2020, 1.30pm - 3.00pm

The International Refugee Law Seminar Series, sponsored by the Refugee Law Initiative at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, provides a public space for discussion, promotion and dissemination of research between academics, practitioners, students and others with an interest in the refugee and forced migration field.

11th RLI Annual Seminar Series 

Academic Year 2020-21 Webinars


How can law and policy engage with the impact of natural hazards on human mobility? 

Environmental processes shape human mobility, including processes of displacement, migration and planned relocation, within countries and even across borders. They can also entrench immobility for specific groups. Natural hazards that shape mobility in such contexts encompass the slow-onset impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, as well as sudden-onset disasters linked to storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and even biological hazards like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This webinar series brings together diverse scholarly and practitioner perspectives on how law and policy can respond to this global challenge. Its six topical sessions will be broadcast live in an interactive format via Zoom technology to enhance participation from across the globe.

The series is convened by the Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) and its Internal Displacement Research Programme, in partnership with the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD), a state-led initiative working to improve protection for people displaced in the context of disasters and climate change.

Global policy debates, mobility and natural hazards

Moderator: Nina Birkeland, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

How is the issue of human mobility in the context of disasters, environmental degradation and climate change treated in the global policy debate (including the Global Compacts for Migration and on Refugees, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC and the Task Force on Displacement)?

  • Saleemul Huq, International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh - disaster displacement as loss and damage under the UNFCCC

  • Dina Ionesco, International Organization for Migration - managing migration and protecting rights in times of climate change

  • Andrew Harper, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – the meaning and scope of climate action under the GCR and how to protect the disaster displaced 

  • Ezekiel Simperingham, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - preparing for and responding to disaster displacement

This seminar will be held via zoom - access link provided upon sign-up.

Speaker bios:

Nina Birkeland works for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), in the Partnership and Policy Department as a Senior Advisor on Disaster Displacement and Climate Change. She has held this position since 2013. Most recently, she led the development of the new UNDRR Words into Action Guidelines on Disaster Displacement. Nina has worked on forced migration issues since the early 1990s, in academia and for NGOs. From 2008-2012 she worked for NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), first as Head of Monitoring and Advocacy and from June 2011-May 2013 as Deputy Head of IDMC and Head of the Research and Policy Department.  Before joining IDMC in Geneva, she was NRC’s Programme Director in Uganda from 2006-2008 and from 2002-2006 she led the interagency Camp Management Project and the development of the first editions of the Camp Management Toolkit. In Norway, from 1995-2002, she worked as Associate Professor in human geography and sustainable development. Nina completed her PhD studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNUfrom 1997-2001, focusing on internal displacement, drivers and coping strategies amongst Angolan internally displaced persons. Nina has wide-ranging field experience from Angola, Burundi, Georgia, Lebanon, Liberia, Kenya, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Syria and Uganda.

Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh, and is an expert on the links between climate change and sustainable development, particularly from the perspective of developing countries. He was the lead author of the chapter on Adaptation and Sustainable Development in the third assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and was the lead author of the chapter on Adaptation and Mitigation in the IPCC's fourth assessment report. His current focus is on supporting the engagement of the Least Developed Countries in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. He is researching the least developed countries’ vulnerability to climate change and the impact of adaptation measures.

Dina Ionesco heads the Migration, Environment and Climate Change (MECC) Division at the UN Migration Agency (IOM). She currently directs the development of an institution wide strategy on climate change and migration. In her current functions, she is a member of the Task Force on Climate Displacement (TFD) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and she represents IOM in the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD). Dina was awarded the ‘Inspirational woman working to protect the environment’ distinction, as part of the 2016 International Women’s Day, at the initiative of UN Environment, the Geneva Environment Network and the Swiss Confederation. She co-authored of the Atlas of Environmental Migration (2016), produces numerous other articles and publications and regularly contributes to media and artistic projects around environmental migration. Dina has led the efforts towards the establishment of the first ever environment, climate change and migration specialized structure in the United Nations and of the first IOM Environmental Sustainability Programme and policy.

Andrew Harper is the Special Advisor on Climate Action to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva. He is responsible for providing strategic guidance, oversight and expertise to shape UNHCR's climate action agenda.Prior to his current tasks, he was the Director of the Division of Programme Support & Management (DPSM), where he oversaw programme policy, planning and management, as well as technical support to field operations. Andrew has led the Innovation Service in UNHCR and was responsible for leading and coordinating the international response to the Syrian Crisis in Jordan. Some of the main achievements included responding to, at the time, the largest refugee crisis in the world, the establishment of the Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps, introducing biometric registration and linking that to the world’s largest biometric based refugee cash assistance programme.  Andrew also served as the Head of Desk for UNHCR, covering the Iraq Situation, as well as the Emergency Focal Point for the Middle East and North Africa region for the Libyan Crisis.  He has previously worked notably for the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNOCHA, and in various field locations with UNHCR, including Central and Southeast Asia, the Western Balkans, Islamic Republic of Iran and Ukraine.

Ezekiel (Zeke) Simperingham is the Asia Pacific Migration and Displacement Coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Zeke is an international lawyer with more than 17 years of experience focused on human rights, humanitarian assistance, protection and rule of law approaches to assisting and protecting and migrants and displaced communities. Zeke previously worked for IFRC as Housing, Land and Property (HLP) Advisor after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; Displacement Solutions in Bangkok and London; the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Thailand; the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Sri Lanka; the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in New York; the Refugee Status Appeals Authority (RSAA) in New Zealand and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Australia. Zeke has a Masters of Laws (LLM) degree from the New York University School of Law and holds Bachelor of Laws (LLB) with honours and Bachelor of Arts (BA) degrees from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Zeke has authored a number of publications on refugee law, climate change induced displacement, international criminal justice and housing, land and property rights.


Refugee Law Initiative
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