Migration, Environment and Climate Change (MECC) Updates
As this year comes to a close, I would like to thank you for your readership and support every month, on behalf of the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Migration, Environment and Climate Change team. I hope you enjoyed our monthly compilation and analysis of information, evidence and stories on environmental migration, from our institutional perspective and drawing on the valuable work of many other stakeholders.
But also as this year comes to a close, two key political events are currently under way and they represent two sides of the same coin: shaping the future of our beautiful planet with, on one side, climate action and on the other side, migration practice. United Nations Member States meet in Marrakesh, Morocco to adopt a Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) that recognizes climate change, environmental degradation and disasters are drivers of migration that need to be addressed urgently. At the same time, in Katowice, Poland, the 24th Climate Change Conference (COP24) has brought at the negotiating table the future of the recommendations of the Task Force on Displacement, one of the major policy advancements we have witnessed in recent years on environmental migration.
Both these discussions should provoke all of us - not just diplomats or UN and other international actors - into thinking seriously about the immense challenges migrants and States are facing now and in the future. We need to think together with migrant communities, diaspora groups and grassroots organizations and listen to their responses to such questions: what can be done to reduce the risk of forced migration due to the impacts of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters?; What can be done to protect and assist those already on the move because of these same drivers?; And what can be done to allow people to migrate regularly and with dignity in ways that are positive for both individuals and communities?
IOM has conceptualized these three perspectives as: developing solutions for people to stay, solutions for people already on the move and solutions for people to move in dignity and safety.
IOM’s Director General, António Vitorino, addressed the diplomatic community last week at the IOM Council in Geneva, with these words of caution: “the impact of climate change – combined with growing intercontinental demographic disparity, widening economic and social inequality, and unresolved instability – is likely to lead to increased internal, regional and international mobility (…).”
These words mean something beyond the confines of a conference room – they describe the daily reality of millions of people affected by rising seas, coastal erosion, land loss or disappearing ecosystems. These individuals and communities not only lose their homes, they also have to leave behind their cultural roots and their hopes.
Our message to decision makers in Marrakesh and Katowice is twofold: investments in bold climate action today will translate into less tragic migration stories tomorrow. But this is not enough, innovative migration thinking and practice are equally needed to ensure human mobility has positive outcomes.
Head the IOM Migration Environment and Climate Change Division
At the GCM Conference attend the high-level panel discussion addressing the migration, environment and climate change nexus.
Make sure to attend the first ever event organized by
the Task Force on Displacement at the 24th Conference on Climate Change.
Asia-Pacific Leaders Address Migration, Environment and Climate Change at the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
25 September – 1 October 2018, New York, United States
Climate change and migration featured prominently during this year’s UN General Assembly, being mentioned over 100 times each by States in the general debate.
Small Island Developing States in the Pacific were very vocal and urged the international community to take action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, including with the aim to prevent related forced migration. The Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Mr. Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, emphasized that the Pacific region cannot afford to see the Paris Agreement relegated to the archives of the UN. Mr. Yosiwo George, Vice President of the Federated States of Micronesia warned that “many more islands will be lost, many homes destroyed, many people displaced. But we can still avoid the worst climate impacts if we recognize the need for speed, and take fast action.”
The feeling of urgency was also shared by the Prime Minister of Fiji, Mr. Frank Bainimarama, who noted that “we can’t simply wait on the rest of the world, with climate impacts already bearing down upon us. We are already taking steps to boost our resilience. (…) We are relocating entire villages and communities to escape the rising seas.” In light of these realities, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Mr. Enele Sopoaga, took the opportunity to ask once more the UN General Assembly to consider Tuvalu’s proposal for a UN resolution initiating a legal process for the protection of persons displaced in the context of climate change.
These sentiments were echoed by Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Mr. Hun Sen, who emphasized that “the fundamentals for action on climate change undoubtedly rest upon the Paris Agreement.” Bhutan's Acting Head of Government, Mr. Lyonpo Tshering Wangchuk, brought attention to the devastation and destruction extreme weather conditions can cause, saying, “climate change also threatens to push 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030.” Mr. Wangchuk also warned that large scale forced migration due to climate change will become a reality.
Migration, Environment and Climate Change:
National Capacity Building Workshop in the Philippines
8-9 November 2018, Manila, Philippines
IOM organized a national capacity building workshop on migration, environment and climate change (MECC) on 8 and 9 November in Manila, Philippines. Implemented on behalf of GIZ under the BMZ-funded Global Programme “Sustainable Management of Human Mobility in the Context of Climate Change” (HMCCC), the workshop was attended by about 20 participants from various government agencies and academic institutes who are leading actors in climate change and migration issues in the country. The workshop covered various aspects of the migration, environment and climate change relevant to the country as well as the wider Asia-Pacific region, from policy and legal framework to data and instruments available to address environmental migration. The participants actively engaged in the sessions, and a number of valuable insights were raised and shared in reaction to the presentations and group discussions, contributing to the mutual enhancement of technical capacities. Participants also identified existing gaps in the Philippines, such as data collection, inter-ministerial coordination and implementation of initiatives that integrate climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, particularly in rural areas.
Being one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, the Philippines is faced with increasing challenges related to human mobility and displacement posed by a variety of disasters. Sudden-onset hydro-meteorological events such as typhoons are increasing in intensity and frequency, and slow-onset disasters such as droughts are also posing grave impact across the country, affecting particularly the most vulnerable people. There is an increasing need to address the human mobility consequences of environmental change through tailored, integrated cross-sectoral policies.
Under the same partnership between IOM and GIZ, a regional workshop will be held in the Eastern Caribbean region in early 2019. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is financing the Global Programme “Sustainable Management of Human Mobility in the Context of Climate Change” (HMCCC). The principal goal is to improve applied knowledge relating to the sustainable management of human mobility in the context of climate change in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Philippines, as well as in Germany and international cooperation.
IOM Discusses Research Findings on Migration and Climate Change in Chile
In 2017, IOM published a study on the migration, environment and climate change nexus in five different countries of South America. The town of Monte Patria, in the IV Region of Chile, was selected to participate in the study to assess the impact of drought and water scarcity on human mobility. In partnership with the Municipality of Monte Patria, Chile, IOM organized on 23 November a workshop to discuss the findings of the study. The event included presentations from local authorities, IOM, ILO and FAO on the different impacts of climate change on local livelihoods, labour opportunities, food security and human mobility. The strong engagement of local authorities to better address environmental migration was praised by the participants at the workshop, and the need to advance in a more thorough understanding of existing and potential vulnerabilities to climate change was identified as a priority for the near future.
The Central American Migrant Caravan and Climate Change
The caravan of migrants leaving countries in the Northern Triangle of Central America to move northwards with the intention of crossing the Mexico-United States border has become front page news in many countries. One of the angles that has been explored in the media is the potential role of climate change in motivating nationals of the Northern Triangle to join the caravan. Outlets such as National Geographic, Washington Post and the Guardian have published stories depicting the impact of drought on food security.
The Dry Corridor of Central America has indeed suffered from extreme drought in 2018, reducing the availability of food and employment opportunities, motivating migration from rural areas. IOM published on 31 October 2018 a Displacement Tracking Matrix report on the El Salvador-Guatemala border, where “seeking better conditions”, “violence/insecurity” and “family reunification” appear as the main motivations for migrating. While migrants in the caravan do not necessarily identify climate change or the environment as the main driver for their journey, available evidence suggests that climate variability is one of the reasons for decreasing opportunities and food security in the region. The limitations of existing mechanisms to cope with drought situations and to identify alternative livelihoods for vulnerable populations are also to be considered.
The multiplicity of drivers behind the migration caravan brings to the spotlight the IOM definition of environmental migrants, which includes “persons or groups of persons who, predominantly for reasons of sudden or progressive change in the environment that adversely affects their lives or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes”. The concrete impact of environmental change on the decision to migrate may be different from one individual to another within the caravan and some of them could be considered as environmental migrants. Regardless of the status of these migrants, solutions are required to address the environmental drivers of migration since they have a clear impact on the well-being of populations in the Northern Triangle.
XXVI Iberoamerican Summit Addresses
the Environmental Drivers of Migration
15-16 November 2018, La Antigua, Guatemala
Heads of State from 22 countries in Latin America, Andorra, Portugal and Spain, met in Guatemala in the framework of the XXVI Iberoamerican Summit to discuss topics of great importance for the region. In an international context shaped by the migrant caravan in Central America and migration flows from Venezuela and Nicaragua, participants at the Summit emphasized the need to protect the human rights of migrants regardless of their status.
In a joint Special Communique on Migration and Refuge, the Heads of State and Government “recognize that disasters of natural origin and the effects of climate change, which have an impact on our societies, are adverse and structural drivers that may force people to abandon their countries of origin.” This represents an important step in acknowledging the need to address the environmental drivers of migration in the region, in line with the provisions of Objective 2 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
Migration and Climate Change at the Metropolis 2018 Conference
30-31 October, Sydney, Australia
The Metropolis Conference is an international network of researchers, policymakers, and community groups engaged in identifying, understanding, and responding to developments in migration and diversity. The IOM Asia-Pacific regional specialist on MECC, Ms. Sabira Coelho, participated at this year’s event to present a paper drafted jointly with Ms. Lara White, Asia-Pacific Labour Mobility and Human Development specialist. The presentation examined the policy considerations of labour migration as a climate change adaptation strategy in the Pacific, underscoring the importance of this thematic work in the region.
In her presentation, Ms. Coelho, examined how policy divisions between employer-driven labour migration schemes and worker-driven humanitarian labour migration schemes can be reconciled. Through an overview of the relevant global and regional policy discourse, examples and experiences from temporary migration schemes opened up on humanitarian grounds, the presentation introduced related opportunities and challenges specific to the Pacific region. In conclusion, Ms. Coelho made policy recommendations to ensure that labour migration schemes driven by humanitarian needs will not have detrimental impacts but instead advance sustainable development at all levels.