Valuable insights in first talks on Nansen Initiative
First talks on plans for a legal framework to cover people forced to cross borders by natural disasters, such as climate change, called impressive.
The manager of the Pacific Conference of Churches says the weekend's inaugural discussion on a legal framework for refugees from natural disaster made quite impressive progress.
Talks in Rarotonga focused on the Nansen Initiative, which aims to provide legal security for people forced to cross borders by the impact of disasters, such as climate change.
The talks brought together governments, international agencies and NGOs.
The Pacific Conference of Churches manager Netani Rika told Don Wiseman it is the first time the region has met to discuss such matters and valuable insights were gained.
NETANI RIKA: I think the UN High Commission For Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration were able to offer some valuable insight into these areas during the talks. Obviously, it's allowed representatives of Pacific governments to go home with perhaps more options available to them now. We have a wider range of issues to discuss on the matter of how to build a legal framework, and I think they found that it will be necessary for Pacific countries to enter into dialogue with each other on how to set up legal frameworks for people who might have to move from one country to another, whether within in the region or even going outside towards Australia and New Zealand.
DON WISEMAN: What sort of hurdles are foreseen there?
NR: I think what was discussed was that the Pacific people have cultures and traditions that they will want to take with them if they're relocated. And they want to know that they will be able to practise these cultures in the countries to which they are relocated. So we'll be looking at how do you prepare people to move to another country, and also how do you prepare the people of the receiving country, the host country, to allow these people in to assimilate into their culture and into their countries. It's not going to be easy. I think nobody's under any illusions that it's going to be a traumatic experience for some people. But there's a need for understanding on both sides and there's a need for governments to look at ways in which people can be helped to make this transition - both the people being relocated and those taking them in. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, but this is the first step that has been taken in Rarotonga to make people aware that it's not about just moving, say, 100 families from one country to another. There are spiritual aspects that need to be looked at, there are cultural aspects, there are emotional aspects, there are legal aspects. What this Nansen Initiative has done is to flag the fact that there are all these things that need to be worked out - how do we prioritise them and then how do we work together on making any possible move as easy as possible.
DW: So what happens next?
NR: What happens next? I think some of the countries have agreed to bilateral talks. They've recognised the need for civil society and faith-based organisations to be involved in order to get the message down to the people on the ground. And I think we're going to see in the region over the next two years or so a lot of efforts to make people aware of what climate change is all about and what the relocation is about and how to prepare for the future.
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