A new idea is currently emerging from international humanitarian agencies that seek to empower communities in Nigeria to tackle their internal displacement crisis head-on.
On the global and national levels generally, the theme that dominates discussions on internally displaced persons is conflict-induced displacements.
But environmental rights advocacy groups are insisting that there are linkages between oil-based environmental degradation and displacements in the Niger Delta.
They are seeing displacement as a definite social condition that diminishes individuals and group capacity to pursue interests that may or may not involve relocation.
Oil-related environmental problems – oil spillages, gas flaring, among others, are diminishing the productivity of oil-bearing communities, resulting to occupational and income losses that set in both voluntary and involuntary migration.
For this reason, some individuals are living as aliens in their own communities, where they are unable to actualise their interest or aspirations.
Environmentalists like Nnimmo Bassey and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have been drawing attention to the urgent need to resolve environmental degradation issues in the Niger Delta.
Similarly, the emerging idea will also be of great advantage to communities in the North-East axis of Nigeria being displaced by the Boko Haram conflict.
The Boko Haram insurgency has displaced around 2.4 million people in the Lake Chad Basin.
Although the Nigerian military has regained control in parts of the vulnerable North-East, civilians in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger continue to be affected by grave violations of human rights, widespread sexual and gender-based violence, forced recruitment and suicide bombings.
The emerging idea demands governments to strengthen local capacities in humanitarian and health responses in a bid to ensure socioeconomic recovery.
This is coming because, by the end of 2019, the total number of people internally displaced due to conflict, violence and disasters reached a record high of 50 million. More than 33 million were newly displaced over the course of the year.
Worried, humanitarian and human rights leaders convened on Thursday to explore durable solutions for the world’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as the host communities and governments like those in Nigeria affected by internal displacement.
The UN migration agency, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) joined the virtual high-level panel discussion, which showcases efforts by the international community to pursue concrete solutions through the Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement launched in February, as part of the week-long Humanitarian Affairs Segment of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
IOM Director General, António Vitorino, says “as if the challenges we faced to finding concrete solutions to internal displacement were not enough, we must now also consider a pandemic on a scale the world has not seen in generations.”
The dire circumstances in which most IDPs live – often characterised by crowded and unsanitary living conditions where jobs and services are few – have worsened due to the health risks and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.
Vitorino highlighted the importance of the humanitarian-development-peace nexus (HDPN) to address the destabilising impacts of COVID-19 on IDPs by strengthening local capacities in humanitarian and health responses and ensuring socio-economic recovery.
The UN agency is one of the largest agencies responding to internal displacement. IOM assisted 21 million IDPs and six million people living in affected/host communities in 2019.
“IOM is present before, during and long after displacement situations are resolved giving us unique expertise and role in operationalising the nexus”, Vitorino says, adding, “our operations span the full displacement continuum – from preparedness and risk reduction to humanitarian response, transition to longer-term solutions, and development.”
Since the onset of COVID-19, IOM has remained on the frontlines – adapting its operations to continue to meet the needs of IDPs affected by the virus and “make IDPs part of the solution” for sustainable recovery and development.
The Thursday discussion was entitled Mobilising action to improve humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons and achieve durable solutions. It was chaired by Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco, and Vice-President of ECOSOC, Omar Hilale, and moderated by the Head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock.
Vitorino was also joined by: Federica Mogherini, Co-Chair of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement; Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Dr. Asha Mohammed, Secretary-General of the Kenya Red Cross Society and others.