The 2012 World Disasters Report was launched in London on Thursday 18 October 2012, published by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent. IFSW was represented at the event by David N Jones, the IFSW President’s Special Representative on The Global Social Agenda.
The report suggests that 73 million people – one in every 100 people in the world – are forced migrants, most of them internally displaced people (IDPs) living in exile in their own country. An increasing proportion is living in urban centres. 43 million people are displaced by war and conflict, 15 million as a result of natural or technological disasters and 15 million have been displaced as a result of economic development projects. 80% of forced migrants live in developing countries, which bear the major financial and social burdens.
Social workers play an increasingly significant role in disaster response in countries at all stages of economic development. They are frequently involved in emergency response (humanitarian action), on-site social service and longer-term development activity.
Writing after the launch, David Jones commented: ‘several UN officials have acknowledged that a major weakness in the current disaster response strategies is the lack of engagement with existing community structures in areas hit by natural or conflict driven disasters. Reports from around the world also show that social service agencies make a crucial contribution to immediate and longer-term disaster response. UN agencies recognise that improved links with local social workers are crucial to more effective delivery of post-disaster assistance and community resilience. That is why the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development includes several commitments to strengthen the capacity of social workers in disaster awareness and response. The annual disasters report is therefore very relevant for social workers everywhere’, David Jones concluded.
The World Disasters Report has a different focus each year. The 2012 focus is on forced migration – on the people forcibly displaced by conflict, political upheaval, violence, disasters, climate change and development projects, whose numbers are increasing inexorably each year. The report argues that ‘the enormous human costs of forced migration – destroyed homes and livelihoods, increased vulnerability, disempowered communities, and collapsed social networks and common bonds – demand urgent and decisive action by both humanitarian and development actors’.
António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, writes in the Foreword to the report: ‘Forced displacement is one of the most acute and visible consequences of disasters and conflict. Its scale and complexity have increased dramatically in recent years. The World Disasters Report 2012 makes a critical contribution to our understanding of how the changing nature of conflict, climate change, population growth and urbanization interact with and accentuate vulnerability. The report articulates a vision which places displaced and other affected communities, and their protection and assistance needs, at the heart of our collective response.’
The report analyses the complex causes of forced migration and its consequences and impacts on displaced populations, their hosts and humanitarian actors. It looks at the significant gaps in humanitarian protection for ever-increasing numbers of forced migrants who do not fit into conventional categories of protection, and the public health challenges caused by forced displacement, particularly for women, children and those with mental ill-health problems. It examines the ‘urbanization’ of forced migration, with an increasing proportion of migrants choosing to settle in ‘urban environments’ rather than the more familiar tented, rural camps. The role of climate change and environmental factors in forced displacement are also examined, alongside analysis of how new communications, information and social networking technologies are reshaping the links between aid providers and migrants. It also tracks humanitarian funding for forcibly displaced populations, as well as the positive and negative economic impacts they have on host communities and countries.
A key recommendation in the report is that humanitarian and development workers need to work more closely together to ensure sustained recovery. ‘This inter-professional dialogue must include local social workers and social service agencies’, David Jones stated.
Commenting on the messages in the World Disasters Report, IFSW Secretary General Rory Truell concluded: ‘The number of people affected by forced migration is astonishing. Each person carries a personal story of dislocation, family tragedy and human cost. IFSW is well aware of the crucial role of social workers in helping those who are hit by disasters. We will continue to highlight the social work role in disasters and work with our global partners to strengthen skills in this crucial area of practice. We will also continue to call on the global community to commit the humanitarian and development resources necessary to uphold human dignity’, Rory Truell concluded.
Visit the World Disasters Report 2012 microsite here for chapter summaries and access to statistics and charts.
Visit World Disasters Report 2012 here for access to the full report.
Visit the video webpage for personal stories of displacement here.
Visit the World Disasters Report website here for access to reports form previous years.
Read the IFSW policy statement on Displaced Persons
Read the IFSW policy statement on Refugees