Global Displacement: A Result of Climate Change and War

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

June 20, 2014 marked World Refugee Day, the first World Refugee Day during which global forced displacement was the highest since World War II.  The Global Trends report, compiled by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees), established the figure of 51.2 million globally displaced people at the end of 2013, an increase of six million from the 45.2 million at the end of 2012.

The 51.2 million globally displaced consist of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people.  (An internally displaced person is someone who is forced to flee his or her own home, but who remains within his or her country borders.) Refugees amount to 16.7 million people worldwide, asylum seekers at 1.2 million, and internally displaced people amounted to a record 33.3 million people, the largest increase of any group in the Global Trends report.

The increase is attributed primarily to the war in Syria and major new displacement in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.  The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, pointed at “post-election violence, inter-communal clashes, evictions, or natural disasters as major causes of displacement” in Kenya specifically, and the Global Overview 2014 noted, “violence, flood and storms as the main cause of displacement in Nigeria.”

Articles in the Premium Official News, Targeted News Service, and a majority of the other news outlets that have covered the subject of global displacement, blame war as the main cause, without recognizing climate change as fueling the scale and complexity of global displacement. Weather related natural disasters are responsible for millions of internally displaced peoples each year; earthquakes and tsunamis destroy homes, creating rubble inhabitable for the former residents and forcing these residents to become internally displaced.


UNHCR, “World Refugee Day: Global forced displacement tops 50 million for first time in post-World War II era”, The UN Refugee Agency, June 20, 2014,

Catholic Information Service for Africa, “UN Expert Calls for Urgent Action in Solving IDPs Situation,” Africa News, May 9, 2014,

Nicholas Ibekwe, “Nigeria Sets New Record – Now Has Africa’s Highest Number of Displaced Persons,” Premium Times Nigeria, May 23, 2014,

Student Researchers: Stepanie Sun and Chinasa Okolo (Pomona College)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Pomona College)