Magazine article Forced Migration Review

From the Nansen Principles to the Nansen Initiative

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

From the Nansen Principles to the Nansen Initiative

Article excerpt

The Nansen Initiative launched in October 2012 aims to build consensus among states about how best to address cross-border displacement in the context of sudden- and slow-onset disasters.

Among humanitarians and students of international law, Fridtjof Nansen is mainly remembered as the first High Commissioner for Refugees whose 'Nansen passport' provided a degree of international protection to scores of paperless refugees. A wider public knows him as the successful polar explorer.

During one daring expedition, from September 1893 to August 1896, Nansen sailed his ship, the Fram, into the ice pack off Siberia, trusting that a strong current carrying the polar ice westwards would allow him to cross the arctic region. His instincts were correct, and the expedition provided science with important new knowledge about oceanography and meteorology, contributing significantly to understanding the climate dynamics in one of the globe's most hostile environments. Nansen also became an accomplished and successful diplomat, able to translate humanitarian principles into action and convincing others to join him.

This unique legacy of humanitarianism, environmental studies and diplomacy inspired the name not only of the Nansen Principles but also of the Nansen Initiative launched by Norway and Switzerland in October 2012.

The Nansen Principles

The ten Nansen Principles, while not formally adopted, reflect the outcome of the Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement in the 21st Century hosted by the government of Norway in Oslo in June 2011.(1) The Principles contain a broad set of recommendations "to guide responses to some of the urgent and complex challenges raised by displacement in the context of climate change and other environmental hazards" (Preamble).

Principle I highlights the need for a sound knowledge base to respond to climate and environmentally related displacement. Principles II - IV then set out the respective roles and responsibilities of relevant stakeholders. In accordance with international law generally, they recall that the primary responsibility to protect populations affected by climate change and other environmental hazards, including the displaced, hosting communities and those at risk of displacement, lies with states but that the challenges created by climate change, including those linked to human mobility, cannot effectively be addressed without the leadership and engagement of local governments and communities, civil society and the private sector. Where national capacity is limited, regional frameworks and international cooperation will be needed to help prevent displacement, assist and protect communities affected by such displacement, and find durable solutions. In this context, it is particularly important to strengthen prevention and build resilience in accordance with the principles enshrined in the Hyogo Framework2 (Principle V) and to build local and national capacity to prepare for and respond to disasters (Principle VI).

The Nansen Principles stress that existing norms of international law should be fully utilised and normative gaps addressed (Principle VII). Although for those displaced within their own country, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement provide a "sound legal framework", implementation is not possible without adequate national laws, policies and institutions (Principle VITI). At the same time, the Principles acknowledge the normative gap regarding the protection of people displaced across international borders owing to suddenonset disasters and suggest the development by states working together with UNHCR of a guiding framework or instrument (Principle IX). The final Principle reiterates that all "policies and responses, including planned relocation, need to be implemented on the basis of nondiscrimination, consent, empowerment, participation and partnerships with those directly affected, with due sensitivity to age, gender and diversity aspects", taking into account the voices of the displaced or those threatened with displacement (Principle X). …

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