An event held on the sidelines of the Vienna Energy Forum today focused on innovative mechanisms to provide sustainable access to clean energy to migrants, refugees and other vulnerable groups, to improve their daily lives and give them hope for a better future.
Participants at the event, titled, “Clean energy for migrants and vulnerable groups”, noted that global challenges such as climate change, threats to human security, political instability and economic inequality have contributed to the migration of vulnerable communities.
The refugee crisis affects many regions, including the countries of refugees’ origin and transit settlements, where energy systems are often inefficient, costly and mostly fossil-fuel based. Although integrating migrants in their new environment is a great challenge, providing integrated energy services to them and teaching them related skills in an effective, low-carbon, and cost-efficient manner could empower them and improve the quality of their lives.
Speaking at the event, Michael Spindelegger, Director General of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), called for stronger international cooperation in the area of migration policies. He said that ICMPD works in partnership with governments, research institutes, international organizations, intergovernmental institutions and civil society to address migration challenges. He emphasized the vital role of the private sector, saying that it should be actively involved in identifying innovative energy solutions.
Daniel Werner, Head of the the European Union Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility (EUEI PDF), called for a closer engagement with the private sector, civil society and financial institutions to address the matter, and noted the value added by technical agencies and organizations such as the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
“Exploring the links between energy and migration is of particular importance to European Union Member States. This is highlighted by the Council of the European Union which acknowledges that lack of or uneven access to energy is part of the root causes of irregular migration. As part of its innovation function, the EUEI PDF has developed an analytical matrix to determine the role of energy on migration to structure the debate between stakeholders,” said Werner.
Paul Quigley, Director of Energy at UNHCR said migration can be addressed at origin by scaling up clean energy technologies and programmes to address energy poverty within vulnerable communities. He pointed out the crucial role that humanitarian agencies, such as UNHCR, can play in ensuring that local governments are fully engaged and committed to establishing energy services for local populations and to empowering migrants.
Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen, Head of Humanitarian Energy, Practical Action, made a case for stronger partnerships and reflected on how organizations represented at the event can create synergies and deliver more effective results. She referred to concrete actions on the ground and stressed that interventions should go beyond tackling issues theoretically and instead lead to tangible real-life solutions.
Tanja Dedovic, Labour Mobility and Human Development Coordinator at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), spoke of the importance of addressing the energy needs of migrants and refugees when they are in transit, and of ways to empower them with skills, tools and knowledge to ensure that they are able to sustain their daily lives in the countries of their settlement.
The moderator, Gerardo Patacconi, interim director of UNIDO’s agribusiness department, emphasized the role of technological innovation, the importance of access to energy and its link to productive activities to support people in their home countries and deter them from migrating, while also assisting those in transit and people settling in their destination countries. He also referred to the essential role of partnerships and the need to bring together the expertise of different organizations and institutions, such as the ones represented on the panel, to develop concrete projects on the ground.
Estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre suggest that by the end of 2015 over 65 million in the world people had been forcibly displaced, including over 40 million internally displaced due to conflict and violence, and more than 21 million refugees. These are the largest numbers the world has seen since the Second World War.
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