According to the 2012 World Disasters Report, recently released by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), over 72 million people are forcibly displaced due to a range of complex drivers including conflict and violence, disasters, political upheaval and even by large-scale development projects. An estimated 20 million among these migrants are living in a state of prolonged displacement.

World Disasters Report

The World Disasters Report is in its 20th issue and over the past two decades has covered topics such as ethics in aid, neglected crises, public health, HIV and AIDS and urban risk. This year’s World Disasters Report focuses on forced migration and on the people forcibly displaced by crises, violence, climate change and development projects, whose numbers are increasing each year.

The report includes reference to the value of satellite imagery analysis and mentions in Chapter 7 the work done by UNOSAT in the area of human security and emergency response. UNOSAT has become increasingly popular with the international community since 2000 especially because of its Humanitarian Rapid Mapping Service. In 2010 the UNOSAT team started a planned investment of over 1 million USD to expand its research and applications to the area of human security, including the monitoring of populations displaced by conflict and disasters. Since then UNOSAT has been active in a range of humanitarian and human rights instances upon request by UN agencies, Commissions of Enquiry and Panels of Experts established by the UN Secretary-General. In the case of the Syrian crisis for example, UNOSAT helps UNHCR monitor several camps in neighboring countries which have been sheltering Syrian citizens escaping the violence in their country.

The 2012 World Disasters Report analyses the complex causes of forced migration and its consequences and impacts on displaced populations, their hosts and humanitarian actors and highlights a number of approaches and policies that governments could adopt to minimize the suffering of the world’s forced migrants.

António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees declared that the Report “ 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”.  In referring to UNOSAT on an earlier occasion, the High Commissioner had commented that “UNOSAT is to be commended for the valuable contribution it makes in protecting and assisting those displaced by conflict, natural disasters, and climate change”.

In late 2012 UNOSAT has started a second phase of its human security mapping, designed to consolidate this activity into a full service similarly to what was achieved for humanitarian rapid mapping in 2003. UNITAR has already invested financial and human resources covering the period 2010-2012 and is now seeking donor support to sustain the service in the future.  A thematic briefing on the work of UNOSAT in the area of human security can be downloaded here (pdf).


Images: The cover of the 2012 World Disaster Report. Example of human security mapping by UNOSAT.