Ms Anne-Marie Abaagu, Executive Director, Women Environmental Programme, Nigeria, says it is crucial to cater for the mental health of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to ensure a just and sustainable development.
She noted that whilst IDPs in various camps received humanitarian aid such as food and other necessities, their mental health remained neglected.
She said some IDPs, particularly women, suffered mental trauma because of being subjected to sexual assault and exploitation, whilst young girls were trafficked and taken to farms to work for long hours without pay.
“Some of these girls even got killed,” she added.
The Executive Director raised the concerns during a panel discussion about unjust cases in the move towards a low-carbon economy and a more sustainable future.
The discussion was part of a two-day symposium held concurrently in Accra and the Netherlands, under the theme: “Justice for whom? Justice for what? Democratising Just Transitions”.
The event was organised by the United Nations University-Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) in partnership with Utrecht University and the Prince Claus Chair for Equity and Development.
To ensure just transition, a situation where no one is left behind in the move towards a greener society, Ms Abaagu said it was crucial to also assist IDPs to integrate back into the society and preserve their cultural heritage.
Mr Kofi Gyimah Amoako-Gyimah, Executive Secretary, Okyeman Environment Foundation, added that, indigenous folks should be engaged in the formulation of policies on management of natural resources.
He said a just transition process should bring in the traditional knowledge that the forebears had, which ensured safety of the environment.
He cited examples where in the past, no one was allowed to farm near a river, whilst twice a week, no one went to the farm.
“These are indigenous methods that sustained their ecosystem and gave continuity for future generations to also come and benefit from it,” he emphasised.
Mrs Thelma Arko, Researcher, Utrecht University, said African countries should diversify their energy sources instead of relying solely on one type of energy.
She said diversifying their sources would ensure a resilient energy sector and secure their energy supply.
Mr Sena Alouka, International Director, Young Volunteer for the Environment, Togo, said Africans should be more ambitious and determined about achieving a just transition.
He said the process required decolonisation and systemic change, as well as change in people’s mindset.
He called for food sovereignty, where Africans must take charge of their food systems and supplies.
Dr Jackline Nyerere, Department of Educational Management, Policy and Curriculum Studies, Kenyatta University, Kenya, indicated that to ensure justice in the move towards a sustainable world, it was essential to bring young people on board and to let their voices heard.
She noted that schools did not pay attention to climate action and called for the inclusion of climate change education in school curriculum.
Dr Johnson Nkem, Senior Climate Security Advisor, United Nations Mission in South Sudan, said peace and security were crucial for a just transition to occur.
“Where there is no peace, there can’t be justice,” he emphasised.