Migration Governance: An adaptation strategy to Climate Change

Joki and Bevelyn alongside their disabled brother and parents are the sole family living on the tiny island of Huene. Originally linked to a nearby island, the island has been slowly shrinking over the years making it increasingly difficult to grow crops. It is likely that Joki and Bevelyn will be the last generation to live on the island. Photos: IOM 2016 / Muse Mohammed


Although the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change points that Parties have common but differentiated responsibilities on mitigating the effects of climate change, the harsh truth is that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are suffering disproportionately from those effects, despite contributing less than 1 per cent total greenhouse gas emissions. Disasters due to natural hazards, many of which are exacerbated by climate change and which are increasing in frequency and intensity, have taken a heavy toll in the Caribbean. In 2017, the Atlantic Hurricane season displaced over 3 million people in a month.

The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report projects that at 1.5°C, SIDS will face increased incidents of internal migration and displacement, freshwater stress and even more worrisome increased aridity, coastal flooding and wave run-up that might leave several atoll islands uninhabitable. In this regard, Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary General at the CARICOM Secretariat, commented

 “We [Caricom] have to keep sounding our small but powerful voices because climate change is existential to us.”

Caribbean States have launched an exemplary range of adaptation measures such as early warning systems, insurance funds, infrastructure works, and resilience building as is the case in Dominica. However, it remains important to address the links between climate change, vulnerability, displacements and the increased potential risks faced by SIDS to ensure environmental-induced migration is not equated with crisis, but with adaptation.

In this line, migration governance efforts can help tackle the effects of climate change more effectively by:

1. Integrating human mobility in national disaster risk management, national adaptation plans and policies to minimize forced migration and displacement. For example, Cuba has implemented an effective emergency preparedness and disaster response centered around community mobilization and preparedness. According to the 2018 Global Report on Internal Displacement, before and during Hurricane Irma, 1.7 million people were evacuated, demonstrating that displacement need not always be a negative outcome but can also enhance disaster reduction.  Approaching crises from a human mobility aspect highlights the necessity to protect vulnerable populations from trafficking in persons and other human rights violations.

2. Promoting cooperation with neighboring and other relevant countries to prepare for early warning, contingency planning, stockpiling, coordination mechanisms, evacuation planning, border management, reception and assistance arrangements to facilitate safe and orderly migration and enhance capacity response to cross-border disaster displacement, return and reintegration.

3. Developing bilateral and multilateral migration agreements for the involvement of migrants and diaspora members in labour opportunities to provide financial and human resources to their home countries. As stated by IOM’s Migration Crisis Operational Framework, diaspora may be keen on participating and even willing to return in support of transition and recovery processes. The World Bank adds that lowering transactions fees and facilitating remittances can tap into the potential of diasporas for disaster relief and recovery efforts.  An example of such agreement could be the facilitation of temporary labour migration schemes of qualified workers to assist in the reconstruction efforts of post crisis environments. For instance, IOM’s hurricane response in Dominica included the training of 71 individuals in basic carpentry as well as the employment of 36 carpenters, four of which were migrant workers from Trinidad and Tobago.

4. Strengthening sub regional approaches, cooperation and building the capacities of all the countries involved is essential to promote reliance, resilience and sustainable development as well as humanitarian assistance and human rights protection of affected populations wherever they are located across the region.

5. Planning relocation is perceived as a key adaptation initiative in many countries due to the rise of sea level and flooding. As highlighted by the World Bank it is important to contemplate this strategy as a long term and even last resort solution considering that adaptation “in place” has its limits as certain landscapes become unviable for sustained and dignified livelihoods.

6. Enabling migration as an adaptation strategy to make livelihoods less climate-dependent by creating sensitive and inclusive incentives or “pulls” away from climate sensitive locations and sectors. In this regard, the World Bank suggests the creation of resilient-economy transitions and diversification. This includes the shift to alternate job opportunities, the training of potential migrants, integration efforts (particularly in urban areas), and identifying climate-resilient labour markets.

Migration is a complex phenomenon with often multiple drivers, yet environmental-induced migration remains a reality and is expected to increase due to the effects of climate change. Migration governance measures in regards to human mobility and the rights of migrants and potential migrants should be contemplated as part of wholistic adaptation strategies, especially as States, particularly those in the Caribbean region, continue stepping up climate ambition.


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Strength in diversity: how inclusiveness contributes to disaster risk reduction

Strength in diversity: how inclusiveness contributes to disaster risk reduction
Autor: Guest Contributor

Disasters due to natural hazards exact a heavy toll on the well-being and safety of persons, communities and countries. These disasters tend to be exacerbated by climate change, and are increasing in frequency and intensity, significantly impeding progress towards sustainable development, especially for most exposed countries.

It is critical to anticipate, plan for and reduce disaster risk to more effectively protect persons, communities and countries, their livelihoods, health, cultural heritage, socioeconomic assets and ecosystems, and thus strengthen their resilience.

According to a recent IOM study on human mobility and the climate agenda in the Americas, countries in the region have advanced in the integration of human mobility in national and regional policies and plans for disaster risk reduction, as well as in other related areas such as climate change, development planning, agricultural policy and housing.

However, in many cases the most vulnerable populations are excluded from contributing to disaster risk management policies and plans, thus suffering more disproportionately when disasters strike.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which sets a series of guiding principles for States and other stakeholders in disaster risk reduction, stresses the importance of inclusive disaster risk management: “There has to be a broader and a more people-centered preventive approach to disaster risk. Disaster risk reduction practices need to be multi-hazard and multisectoral, inclusive and accessible in order to be efficient and effective.”

While Governments have a leading and regulatory role to play, they should engage with different groups including women, youth, persons with disabilities, migrants, indigenous peoples and other communities in the design and implementation of policies, plans and standards.

The framework notes the following opportunities:

  • Migrants contribute to the resilience of communities and societies, and their knowledge, skills and capacities can be useful in the design and implementation of disaster risk reduction;
  • Persons with disabilities and their organizations are critical in the assessment of disaster risk and in designing and implementing plans tailored to specific requirements, taking into consideration the principles of universal design;
  • Children and youth are agents of change and should be given the space to contribute to disaster risk reduction
  • Women and their participation are critical to effectively managing disaster risk and designing, resourcing and implementing gender-sensitive disaster risk reduction policies, plans and programmes; and adequate capacity building measures need to be taken to empower women for preparedness as well as to build their capacity to secure alternate means of livelihood in post-disaster situations;
  • Indigenous peoples, through their experience and traditional knowledge, provide an important contribution to the development and implementation of plans and mechanisms, including for early warning;
  • Older persons have years of knowledge, skills and wisdom, which are invaluable assets to reduce disaster risk, and they should be included in the design of policies, plans and mechanisms, including for early warning.

The inclusion of migrants and other communities can also contribute towards strengthening local capacities, advance an integrated agenda, strengthen local networks and expand the governance base of migration and climate change.

To turn these words into action, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) developed a companion for implementing the Sendai Framework Target, offering practical guidance to help Government authorities integrate disaster displacement and other related forms of human mobility into disaster risk reduction strategies at local and regional levels.

Similarly, The Migrants In Countries In Crisis Initiative (MICIC), developed a series of Principles, Guidelines, and Practices to strengthen local, national, regional, and international action to better protect migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters. The Guidelines provide recommendations on how migration can contribute to resilience, recovery, and the well-being of affected communities and societies. These include practices for implementation, such as migrant-to-migrant learning, regional and cross-border contingency plans, and crisis alert systems. 

While public and private sectors, civil society organizations, academia and scientific and research institutions, communities and businesses can all work more closely together to create opportunities for collaboration, the rights of vulnerable groups should always be contemplated as part of holistic strategies for disaster risk management and climate change adaptation.