Building Institutional Strength for Migration and Climate Change in Colombia

Bogota City, Landsdcape. ©Elsa Garcia 2013

By Elsa Garcia and Daniel Fernandez

Colombia is taking steps towards the development of solutions to address the issue of migration associated with climate change. On the 3rd of October 2013, the IOM Colombia Climate Change Unit and the Ministry of the Environment and Development signed a cooperation agreement titled “Preparation for a National Study of Climate Change and Migration in Colombia.” The objective of the study is to “generate technical materials that support the incorporation of migration caused by climate change into current preparations for a national plan to adapt to climate change, and into sector-specific and territorial plans for this type of transition.”

The project will touch upon several sectors at the forefront of global development in Colombia like the legal sector, planning and development, climate monitoring, emergency preparedness, and migration considerations which have to be supported by laws, institutions and budget.  

The project seeks to inform and support subsequent adjustment of public policy and national territorial adaptation plans through the preparation of a background analysis and technical recommendations for the National Study on Climate Change and Migration, which is planned to be undertaken by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the National Planning Department and the National Administrative Department of Statistics. 

In keeping with its commitments as signatory to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, the Government of Colombia has developed policy instruments for adaptation and mitigation.  A pending task is to establish policy mechanisms to address migration associated with climate change at national and sub-national levels, as part of a larger scale project that is planned to be developed with the National Planning Department.

However, there is still a gap in knowledge on how these two phenomena - “migration” and “climate change“- interact in Colombia and on obstacle to formulating evidence-based programs and projects.  The project ‘National Study on Migration and Climate Change’ aims to understand the economic, environmental and social processes through which climate change and climate variability may induce population movements.

By building on existing partnerships with the Ministry of Environment and the National Planning Department, the Study will lead to identifying public policy mechanisms effective in managing these processes at the national, regional and local levels.

The project will focus on the definition of a conceptual framework on migration and climate change, and will also include activities comprising analysis and interpretation of field data, migration trends, and legal situation for migrants in the context of climate change from a sample of 10,000 surveys of the UNGRD (National Unit for Disaster Risk Management) conducted by REDUNIDOS during the severe winter rains and accompanying environmental effects in 2010-2011.

The IOM final product will include recommendations for the Colombian Government to address policy and practice related to this topic, and allows IOM to contribute proposals on how to strengthen governmental practices aiming to address adaptation to climate change. This will ultimately benefit organized migration through the structuring of short and long-term strategies that adapt and replicate the pilot experience.