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

Desastres: el factor que desplaza internamente a más personas en América

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.

Responding to hate speech against migrants in social media: What can you do?

Responding to hate speech against migrants in social media: What can you do?
Categoria: Migrant Protection and Assistance
Autor: Guest Contributor

"We all have to remember that hate crimes are preceded by hate speech." This is how Adama Dieng, UN's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, starts the Stopping Hate Speech video. "We have to bear in mind that words kill. Words kill as bullets", he continued.

To speak about hate speech it is necessary to refer to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The article stresses the importance of freedom of expression, but it also calls attention to the responsibilities that come with it. 

The United Nations has recently launched the "UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech", to strengthen UN actions that address the causes of hate speech, and the impact this discourse has within societies. Among other measures, the strategy includes monitoring and analyzing data, using technology, and engaging with new and traditional media. It also encourages more research on the relationship between the misuse of the Internet and social media for spreading hate speech, and the factors that drive individuals towards violence.

Just like the UN must assume responsibility, traditional media oulets also face challenges in guaranteeing that the information they offer on migrants is conscientious and data-based (here are some recommendations on how to do this).

But beyond these institutional responsibilities, the reality is that thousands of people publish hate filled content on their social media every day, sometime explicitly calling for violent actions against migrant populations and other vulnerable groups. What can each of us do to fight back against this content?

  • Speak up against hate: Silence and apathy can be taken as acceptance. Comments on social networks are more than just words, and should not be seen as harmless, especially when social networks are a source of information for migrants and contribute to their experiences. According to the Department of Justice of the United States, "insults can escalate to harassment, harassment can escalate to threats, and threats to physical violence." Intervening assertively is important both in the digital world and in face-to-face situations. However, it is necessary to assess the risk in each context to avoid dangerous situations.
  • Create positive content: To counteract the weight of hate speech, it is necessary to create and share empathetic information. According to Cristina Gallach, High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, to combat this problem, we must present images that appeal to the best of us, and focus on powerful and universal messages that unite us through our shared values.
  • Avoid sharing sensational videos and photos: Even when it is to criticize this type of content, sharing it will increase traffic to the channels and users that broadcast negative media.
  • Report on the platform: Each social network has its own guidelines on which content is acceptable or not not. While there are teams dedicated to verify this information, in many cases it is necessary to report it for it to be seen. Facebook continually checks if there are new vulnerable populations that should be included in their protected categories, and on previous occasions, migrants have fit within this group. According to the Facebook hard questions blog:

"When the influx of migrants arriving in Germany increased in recent years, we received feedback that some posts on Facebook were directly threatening refugees or migrants. We investigated how this material appeared globally and decided to develop new guidelines to remove calls for violence against migrants or dehumanizing references to them — such as comparisons to animals, to filth or to trash. But we have left in place the ability for people to express their views on immigration itself."

There is a whole discussion about whether social media companies are the ones who should define, in their own platforms, what constitutes freedom of expression and what constitutes hate speech, but that is material for another blog. Here you can see what kind of content to report in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

  • Report to the authorities: When there are personal threats to the physical integrity or the lives of others, it is time to report the situation to the competent authorities to intervene. Since the digital world moves faster than changes in laws, there may be "holes" in the regulations that will hinder intervention. Documenting hazardous materials through screenshots and collecting as much information as possible about the aggressor before they close their account will be useful for the reporting process. Platforms and companies can also be reported if they spread violent content. For example, a few months after the massacres in two mosques in Christchurch (New Zealand), the Australian government approved new legislation against spaces that do not quickly eliminate "violent and abominable material".

“We need to use the verb to become a tool for peace, a tool for love, a tool for increase social cohesion”, said Adama, later in the video. Let’s speak up against hate speech.