24 May 2013

Kiribati welcomes chance to highlight climate change plight

3:16 pm on 24 May 2013

The vice president of Kiribati, Teima Onorio, says consultations on legal protections for those displaced by natural disasters are an opportunity for Kiribati to focus attention on climate change.

One of those involved in the Nansen Initiative, Swiss academic and human rights expert, Professor Walter Kaelin, says people forced to cross borders by natural disaster are not refugees because they are not being persecuted.

He says the Nansen Initiative aims to develop a legal framework to cover these people.

Teima Onorio says many i-Kiribati have already had to re-locate because of climate change.

"And we feel that this Nansen Initiative provides us that forum to discuss this further and especially to discuss with the donor community and other countries also affected by the impact of sudden and slow onset disasters. Currently there is no legal framework to protect our people when or if they migrate."

The first consultations on the Initiative are being held in the Cook Islands this week.