Industrialized nations must ‘honor moral responsibility’ to mitigate effects of climate change in Ethiopia

Panelists at the 27 March event in the Bundestag. From left to right: Lisa Binder (Bread for the World), Sabine Minninger (Policy Advisor on Climate Change, Bread for the World), Maina Talia (Panelist from Tuvalu), Claudia Roth (German Green Party politician and Bundestag Vice President), Dr. Julia Duchrow (Human Rights Expert, Bread for the World), Sophie Gebreyes (LWF Country Representative in Ethiopia). Photo: Sabine Mininger/BftW

LWF Ethiopia Representative addresses German politicians ahead of European elections

(LWI) - The devastating effects of climate change and conflict on rural communities in Ethiopia were under the spotlight at the German Parliament (Bundestag) during a recent presentation by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) representative in that East African nation.

Sophie Gebreyes, LWF’s Country Representative in Ethiopia, took part in a panel on Wednesday 27 March, organized by German Green Party politician and Bundestag Vice President, Claudia Roth. The event, entitled ‘Climate-induced movement of people - new instruments in international law?’, was designed to raise awareness about environmental and migration issues ahead of European elections scheduled in Germany for 26 May.

Speaking to an audience of MPs and climate experts, Gebreyes highlighted the 8.86 million people in Ethiopia who are currently in need of humanitarian assistance. Over a third of those (3.19 million or 36%) are internally displaced persons (IDPs), earning Ethiopia the unenviable accolade of “the country hosting the largest number of IDPs in the world”, she said. In addition, Ethiopia is also hosting close to 900,000 refugees fleeing from conflict in neighboring countries.

Gebreyes noted that the majority of those IDPs are the result of recurrent climate-induced droughts and other weather-related crises which have had a dramatic impact on rural communities in recent years. While weather phenomena like El Niño and La Niña used to occur every 8 to 10 years, she said, they now appear to be more frequent and unpredictable, occurring every other year (2016, 2017 and probably 2019). The most devastating impact, she added, is that the recurrence of these disasters does not allow enough time for people to recover and build any resilience.

Climate and conflict displacement

Alongside the climate-related causes of displacement, many Ethiopians are suffering the consequences of periodic localized conflicts, which in 2017 and 2018 escalated to unprecedented levels. These conflicts have their roots in inter-communal competition over scarce resources such as water rights, land use and access to pasture for their animals.

Furthermore, Gebreyes said, there are other factors compounding the complex scenario in Ethiopia, such as environmental degradation, socio-economic issues, demographic pressure, infrastructure development and governance. The consequences of this forced migration, in addition to economic and material losses, she said, include human rights violations, deep fractures and disintegration of the social fabric, networks and ties, threats to cultural identity and health, destruction of social capital, besides the loss of human life.

Appeal to industrialized countries

Gebreyes ended her presentation to the parliamentarians with a three-fold appeal to help LWF and other partners lift Ethiopia out of its recurring crises. Firstly, she said, there is a need for humanitarian assistance which can be linked to effective development, peace and security responses.

Secondly, she continued, industrialized nations, which are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, should provide adaptation finance for resilience building, since Ethiopia at present does not have the financial or technical adaptive capacity to deal with the consequences of climate change.

Finally, Gebreyes said, a new binding international law for internally displaced people is needed in order to ensure protection of the rights of these millions of people on the move. Germany and other industrialized countries, she concluded, must honor their moral responsibilities and do their share to respond to the needs of this nation bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change.

LWF Ethiopia

LWF Ethiopia is one of our 23 World Service country programs and has been operational for over four decades. It first established a presence in 1973 at the request of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) to alleviate the suffering caused by the severe drought in Ethiopia at the time.

We work with refugees, displaced people and host communities in building resilience and sustainable livelihoods, as well as providing humanitarian services including water, hygiene and sanitation, livelihoods, environmental protection and psycho-social support.

LWF Ethiopia is committed to assisting the most vulnerable people irrespective of ethnicity, gender, religion, race, or political conviction.