Disasters: the factor that internally displaces the most people in the Americas

Disasters: the factor that internally displaces the most people in the Americas

On May 2019, the Internal Displacement Observatory (IDMC) published its global report on internal displacement due to conflicts and disasters. The report details new occurrences and confirms the persistence of political instability, chronic poverty and inequality, environmental and climate change as drivers of cyclical and protracted displacement.

In global terms, the IDMC estimated the total number of new displacements in 2018 to be 28 million people, out of which 10.8 million relocated due to conflicts and 17.2 million due to disasters. Displacement in the Americas represents 7.5% of the global total of 2,091,000 people (the greatest number of internally displaced persons in history) with a clear prevalence of mobilization associated with disasters (1,687,000 people), instead of conflicts (404,000 people).


Graph: New displacements due to disasters during the last years in the Americas (Only the ten countries with the greatest number of new displacements between 2008 and 2018 appear in the chart. Other countries not on the list may have a greater number of new displacements in a given year. Full data is available at: www.internal-displacement.org/database/displacement-data).


The countries most affected by disasters in the continent were the United States (1,247,000 new displaced persons), El Salvador (250,700) and Colombia (212,000). In the United States, the profound impact of the wildfires that devastated California in the second half of the year and the effect of hurricanes Florencia and Michael in Florida during August and October are worth noting. On the other hand, displacement in El Salvador is mainly caused by conflicts, while Colombia suffered the impact of disasters (67,000 displaced persons) and conflicts (145,000) simultaneously.

It is also important to highlight that according to IDMC, displacement due to conflict in the Americas was concentrated in three countries: El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico, while displacement by disasters was much broader geographically, affecting 28 countries in the continent.

It is expected that most of the future displacements associated with disasters will occur in urban sectors, where poverty, inequality and corruption are relevant factors when measuring the risk of human mobilization. The solutions to prevent and address these situations require a multidisciplinary approach that combines adaptation to the effects of climate change, disaster risk reduction and the development of community resilience.

The IDMC report details the sources used to measure the new displacement situations in each country, including IOM's displacement control matrix (DTM), and calls for the development of recollection systems and data treatment that will be given for a better follow-up of the internal displacement scenarios.

7 recommendations to promote the inclusion of migrants in host communities through social and cultural activities.

Categoria: Pacto Mundial sobre Migración
Autor: Carlos Escobar

The promotion of social and cultural activities as a mechanism to encourage interaction between migrants and host communities with the aim of advancing in the construction of more just and peaceful societies, is currently a topic of special interest in studies, policies and programs on migrant inclusion and social cohesion.

Taking Intergroup Contact Theory (IGCT) as a reference, different researches argue that the interaction of people from different places and contexts, under the right circumstances, favors trust and the change of xenophobic or discriminatory perceptions. Thus, intergovernmental agreements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration have integrated this perspective into their theoretical and conceptual body. In particular, Goal 16 "Empower migrants and societies to achieve full inclusion and social cohesion", calls for the creation of community centres or programs at the local level to facilitate the participation of migrants in the receiving society by engaging migrants, community members, diaspora organizations, migrant associations and local authorities in intercultural dialogue, exchange of experiences, mentoring programs and the creation of business linkages that enhance integration outcomes and foster mutual respect.

Based on the analysis and review of different research, the IOM, in its publication The Power of Contact: Designing, Facilitating and Evaluating Social Mixing Activities to Strengthen Migrant Integration and Social Cohesion Between Migrants and Local Communities – A Review of Lessons Learned, proposes a series of recommendations, based on empirical evidence, to encourage the participation of migrants and receiving communities in social and cultural activities.

1). Fun and goal-oriented

Designing and incorporating fun and exciting activities leads to a lighter and more welcoming environment for people to meet, interact and create social bonds. At the same time, setting common goals, which neither group can achieve without the participation of the other (cooperative interdependence), makes the activities more engaging and participatory.

2). Mutual appreciation

Participants should understand, recognize and appreciate culture, traditions and history as part of the process of bridging differences, maximizing each other's strengths and identifying commonalities. It is important that all individuals are able to identify how their contributions can have a positive impact on the achievement of common goals.

3). Shared ownership

Involving migrants and local communities in all phases of activities will increase their participation. This ownership empowers them, raises their self-esteem and opens up new opportunities for responsibility and commitment.

4). Guided Reflection

Dialogues and activities that allow for a certain degree of reflection help to create an atmosphere that is perceived as trusting, friendly and warm. Processing information and sharing personal and sensitive stories, which can evoke memories, are of utmost importance as long as they are carefully guided and accompanied by facilitators or project members.

5). Supervision and Trust Facilitation

Those responsible for group interactions, such as team leaders, facilitators, project staff or event planners, must play an active role in promoting equality within intergroup relations and creating an inclusive environment for all. This deliberate effort is crucial to overcome the natural tendency of participants to group themselves according to their most salient characteristics and status.

6). Sustained and regular intervention

It goes without saying that the more frequent, prolonged and intensive the participation, the better the attitude of each individual towards others. This means adopting an approach that rethinks the role of the people involved, who in turn will define the needs of their communities and ultimately take part in the design and organization of appropriate interventions.

7). Institutional support and partnership

The support of institutions such as local governments, media, government agencies and intermediary organizations is critical to promoting and facilitating constructive efforts to strengthen intergroup relations. The coordination of these institutions creates a system that can provide resources and incentives to promote and strengthen intergroup relations.

Social and cultural activities, understood as a programmatic intervention strategy to facilitate the inclusion of migrants in receiving communities, are important to the extent that they offer non-institutional spaces for interaction, where through spontaneous human contact, social ties are built based on experiences, stories, emotions and life trajectories of the participants. This facilitates the generation of trust between individuals, greater degrees of social cohesion and, of course, peaceful coexistence in communities, understood not only as the absence of conflict, but also as a positive, dynamic and participatory process in which dialogue is promoted and conflicts are resolved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, through the acceptance of differences, the ability to listen, recognize, respect and appreciate others. (UN, 2021).