UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME

DIrector: Gabrielle Schultz

Topic Area: Refugees in Relation to the Environment

For many years the world has been watching the Syrian conflict and subsequent civilian exodus with wary eyes. But throughout the entirety of the Syrian civil unrest there have been much smaller migrations all over the world due to rising temperatures and sea levels, drought, and famine. These climate driven migrations will only increase with time, and thus need to be met with substantive policy and care. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has released a statement regarding and outlining the intricacies of the humanitarian response, but this committee will focus on proactive solutions that can be implemented in environment-at-risk communities in order to help combat the problem at its source. What role should the countries who are accepting these refugees play? Does the burden fall entirely upon the at-risk countries and their infrastructures? What are practical and cost effective interventions?

On the opposite end of a refugee’s journey is their eventual resettlement into a new environment. Resettlement areas are designated to large, open areas often on or near protected forests, reserves, or national parks. Some countries nearest the conflict have been inundated with refugees and are therefore unable to accommodate the large influx of people. The waste from these camps often contaminates the very water sources the camps depend upon, which can not only spread disease, but also have detrimental impacts on fish and wildlife. How heavily should a country weigh the preservation of its natural resources against the need to resettle thousands of people? Once these refugee camps are established, what measures can be taken to ensure the protection of the host environment?

- GS