As countries across the globe face more disasters from extreme weather, an upcoming conference in Japan may be key to protect those most vulnerable from the impacts of climate change.
In November 2013, the strongest typhoon on record tore a path of destruction across the central Philippines, displacing four million people. In the disaster’s wake, the government adopted an ambitious plan to relocate 200,000 households away from at-risk coastal areas and resettle them out of harm’s way. While well-intentioned as a strategy to mitigate displacement from future typhoons and climate change, observations to date suggest that without sufficient planning and safeguards, government-led resettlement is a highly risky undertaking that threatens to prolong displacement and leave affected populations more, not less, vulnerable.
In September 2013, in the city of Zamboanga on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, fighting broke out between the Moro National Liberation Front, a Muslim separatist group, and the Philippine Army. One hundred and twenty thousand people were displaced. The confrontation was the latest in a 40-year struggle by minority Muslim groups – comprised of indigenous ethnic people known collectively as “Moros” – for self-determination. Today, more than one year later, over 38,000 people remain displaced.
On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan tore a path of destruction across the Philippines. While the emergency response was successful in providing life-saving assistance, three months on, humanitarian needs remain enormous, especially with respect to the restoration of people’s livelihoods. A lack of robust early recovery programs has left hundreds of thousands of people reliant on aid, and points to a broader problem regarding the overall efficacy of the UN’s early recovery approach to large-scale, sudden-onset natural disasters.
In November 2013, a massive typhoon struck the Philippines, killing thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes. The response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is the largest to a sudden-onset natural disaster since the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the Pakistan floods. Typhoon Haiyan is also the first large-scale natural disaster to strike since the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Transformative Agenda (TA) was adopted, and the first Level 3 (L3) emergency declaration in such a context.
Typhoon Haiyan was one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall. But as global climate change continues, such super-stroms could become much more common. That’s why, in addition to providing emergency relief, Philippine officials are trying to move populations away from the sea and clearing out so-called “no build zones.” Relocation may be necessary, but so far it has been a confusing and slow process. Families know they need to leave, but not where or when they will go, or whether they’ll have access to jobs and schools when they get there. It is vital that relocated families get the help they need quickly, and that the authorities respect their rights.