Moving Human Mobility Up the Climate Change Agenda

Asia, Bangladesh, Shatkira district. Salma Khatun, 25 years old, in her flooded house. She lives in a small village a few miles from the city of Shatkira. ©Alessandro Grassani 2011


“I am heartened by the fact that migration and population displacement now feature in a UN Climate Change document, but we need to go further. As the international migration agency, we are committed to making progress in three main areas. First, to support the least developed and developing countries in their efforts to integrate migration into adaptation planning, as they are currently developing their National Adaptation Plans.  Second, to continue our work on mainstreaming migrants’ contributions into development strategies.  Third, to enhance capacities needed to manage environmental migration. If systematically included in development policies, the multiple contributions of migrants can significantly contribute to sustainable and green strategies” William Swing. IOM Director – General. World Environment Day

By Dina Ionesco

We are pleased to introduce a new issue of IOM’s Environmental Migration E-Newsletter (Fall/Winter Issue) entitled Moving Human Mobility Up the Climate Change Agenda. This issue is devoted to migration in the context of climate change, assessing the situation in the wake of the 19th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP19) taking place in Warsaw, Poland.

Why should migration be of concern for climate change negotiators? What are the gateways for considering migration policies and migrants in the Warsaw climate negotiations? What is IOM’s and partners’ action on migration and climate change?

Bringing People to the Forefront: Migration in the Climate Negotiations

Throughout this issue, our aim is to highlight that migration represents a significant social, human and economic dimension of climate change and to enhance awareness that there is no single way to understand and address human mobility in the context of climate change. All facets of human mobility - as a lifesaving response or as a livelihood strategy - are indeed relevant and call for appropriate responses.

We do not wish to present foremost migrants as victims of climate change nor to make them heroes of adaptation; we want to offer a balanced view in order to understand how human mobility is a determinant of both vulnerability and resilience.

Entry doors for migration in the climate negotiations

There are a number of entry doors for considering human mobility within the climate negotiations’ agenda: the revision of the guidelines for the formulation of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs); the Nairobi Work Programme on Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation and the Loss and Damage Work Programme. A number of Parties submissions such as those made by the African Group, the European Commission (EC), the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS), the Group of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) or Norway specifically make mentions to human mobility, migration, displacement and planned relocation.

A number of actors propose Side-Events where the angle of human mobility is considered such as the Coastal Association for Social Transformation Trust (COAST Trust) on rights framework, Many Strong Voices (MSV) on community based relocation, the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative on Loss and Damage and The Alianza CAN-LA & PCL, on climate change national policies in Latin America.

A number of international agencies coordinated their technical inputs such as UNHCR, NRC/IDMC, IOM, UNU, UNDP, ILO and OHCHR on human mobility and loss and damage.

Bangladesh, the Ganges Delta. Cattle farmers cutting grass for their animals on what was once an inhabited island, the island of Gazura, now submerged by the River Meghna. ©Alessandro Grassani 2011

The many facets of migration

The Newsletter addresses the many facets of migration in the context of climate change, looking into the forced forms of migration such as displacement, and in the voluntary and managed forms of migration, as an adaptation strategy and as planned relocation. We give equal consideration to the detrimental impacts of migration on the environment and to the contributions of migrants to development.

While the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center IDMC evidence shows that 144 million people were newly displaced in 125 countries between 2008 and 2012 by sudden disasters, the United Nations High Level Dialogue (HLD) on Migration and Development just came to a close, acknowledging the numerous contributions of migrants to development.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2013 Assessment Report confirms that the effects of climate change already irrevocably impact livelihoods and will continue to do so. Human mobility in the context of climate change cannot go be ignored and calls for appropriate measures.

In this Newsletter

We heartily welcome Professor Suh-Yong Chung from Korea University who shares his climate and adaptation expertise and discusses whether the climate community is indeed paying increased attention to human mobility.

We are happy to feature again the work of the photographer Alessandro Grassani, who through his project “Environmental Migrants” tells us stories of plight and achievement.

This issue highlights a new generation of partnerships where bridges are built across new policy islands, such as the innovative IOM partnerships with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and with the Colombian Ministry for Environment.

Finally, based on their areas of expertise, our colleagues have put migration in the light of other policy areas, in particular adaptation, loss and damage, disaster risk reduction and development.

Enjoy your reading!