GENEVA - A high-level panel on internal displacement established by the U.N. Secretary-General said it will seek concrete long-term solutions to try to alleviate the plight of tens of millions of people internally displaced by conflict and natural disasters.
The panel had its first brainstorming session Tuesday in preparation for the complex and challenging work that will get underway on Feb. 26. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has given the eight distinguished members of this high-level panel only one year to come up with a realistic plan to prevent displacement and mitigate its effects.
Last year, the number of people internally displaced by conflict around the world reached a record high of more than 41 million. In the same year, the United Nations said 17 million other people were forced to move because of natural disasters and climate-related events.
Panel Co-Chair Federica Mogherini is the former European Commission high representative for foreign affairs and a seasoned politician. She said the panel will address the problem of displacement from many aspects. She said it will look for realistic, durable solutions and mobilize international support to help both the displaced and the countries hosting them.
“The issue of internal displacement tends to be forgotten, while it is one of the major, not only humanitarian, but also, I would say, political crises that our times are seeing,” Mogherini said. “So, our first task will be to keep, or rather put this as high as possible on the agenda and try to provide some good advice on how this can be addressed.”
Co-Chair Donald Kaberuka is a former president of the African Development Bank Group and minister of Finance and Economic Planning in Rwanda. He said he hopes to bring his experience from the development world to find practical solutions to this problem.
He told VOA it is not possible to separate development, environment and security — all elements involved in displacement.
“We would be failing the secretary-general if we did not address the issue of climate impacts ... I do not see any solution in the Sahel at the moment … unless it encompassed what we are saying,” Kaberuka said. “What is happening to climate ... and how it has fallen into a social problem and now into a security problem. Those will have to be addressed together.”
The panelists said they want a positive, productive outcome to their year-long deliberations. As such, they said they do not intend to point fingers of shame or dwell on governmental shortcomings. They will try to get states to work together to meet the needs of the displaced.
They said they will try to avoid politicizing the issue. Rather, they will look at ways to help those forced to flee conflict and natural disasters live better under very difficult circumstances.