IDMC Expert Forum 2020: Internal Displacement in a Changing Climate

As a lead-in to the 2021 edition of our Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID), IDMC is organising a programme of online expert forums and high-level dialogues in 2020 and early 2021. The aims are to refocus the internal displacement debate; to exchange on the many existing metrics, tools and platforms available for policy-makers; and to generate an environment for risk-informed humanitarian and development planning.  


Assessing the scale of internal displacement  

We are getting better at accounting for people displaced in disasters, but some of the basics are still missing:

  • How long people are displaced for?
  • When, why, and in what manner do they return home?
  • What keeps them from doing so?
  • What are the short- and long-term impacts?

New methods, tools, and systems are emerging that seek to answer these questions and fill critical gaps in data.

Understanding displacement risk  

The field of disaster displacement risk assessments is young and, until recently, IDMC’s Global Displacement Risk Model was the only one available. However, an increasing number of qualitative and quantitative studies are being developed and more actors are now involved in understanding the dynamics of displacement risk, its drivers, and the possibilities of quantifying its scale and predicting future trends.

Investing in solutions to displacement

Promising developments in building resilience and developing approaches to reducing disaster displacement risk exist. Rather than accept mass displacement in the face of climate change as an inevitable future scenario, several countries have successfully integrated displacement into climate change adaptation and disaster management strategies. Their experience of planning and implementing displacement policies and programmes offers valuable lessons.

"With climate change making extreme weather events much more frequent and intense, it is projected that disaster displacement will increase, particularly in developing countries."

Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of UNDRR

"Displacement in the context of disasters and adverse effects of climate change is one of today’s biggest humanitarian challenges and its significance will increase in the future."

Prof. Walter Kaelin, Envoy of the Chair, Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD)


For decades, IDMC has been at the forefront of collecting and validating existing data and assessing best practice in analysis and communication of results. In our many years of reporting on internal displacement, it has become clear that several myths around displacement in the context of disasters and climate change persist – with serious and mostly negative implications for policy and response.

Disaster displacement is short-lived

The most common myth is that protracted displacement does not constitute a major problem in the context of disasters, as people return to their homes after life-saving pre-emptive or spontaneous evacuations, busying themselves with reconstruction and rebuilding their livelihoods.  


Disasters are natural (and displacement inevitable)

Despite decades of evidence-building to the contrary, the perception that disasters are natural and something that may be prepared for, but not prevented, remains common.  


Climate change will result in mass displacement

Dominant too, is the notion that changes in climate directly and automatically translate to large-scale movements of people; mass displacement, including cross-border flight; and significant new migration flows to Europe and other high-income regions.  


"Internally displaced persons are among the most vulnerable and face a variety of risks to their lives, health and well-being."

António Guterres, United Nations (UN), Secretary General

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