Environmental Migration

Planned Relocation: Four points to consider in a changing environment

Caribbean countries are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, both in the form of sudden-onset disasters (hurricanes, floods) as well as slow onset events such as sea level rise and land degradation. 

Desastres: el factor que desplaza internamente a más personas en América
On May 2019, the Internal Displacement Observatory (IDMC) published its global report on internal displacement due to conflicts and disasters. The report details new occurrences and confirms the persistence of political instability, chronic poverty and inequality, environmental and climate change as drivers of cyclical and protracted displacement.

Central and North America: Migration and displacement in the context of disasters and environmental change

This paper aims to brief policymakers on the nexus of migration, displacement, disasters and environmental change in Central and North America, as well as on normative and policy responses, specifically focusing on cross-border movements within the region.

Internal displacement, extractive transnational corporations and the protection of rights of affected communities

The export of raw materials, hydrocarbons, and minerals occupy a prominent place in Latin America’s economic model. However, due to the extraction characteristics of some of these resources, environmental conflicts appear in several places around the continent.

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.

Following the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016, United Nations Member States, for the first time of their history, committed to develop, negotiate and adopt a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). The GCM is a non-binding cooperation framework that articulates a common set of commitments, on the basis of 23 objectives, for states to respond to the challenges and opportunities of contemporary international migration, and formulates provisions for implementation, follow up and review.


A child accessing fresh water in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Muse Mohammed/IOM

The international community has, for good reason, sought to emphasize the importance of migration as a global public policy issue. With heightened awareness of the multiple implications of poorly managed migration, and with the international community focused on developing a new global compact to address it, the opportunity for a more nuanced, more sophisticated approach to migration has presented itself. With this has come the opportunity to better understand migration and its links with other policy issues that at first thought might seem unrelated.

U.S. Military helping people affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas. Photo: 1st Lt. Zachary West/U.S. Air Force 2017

Images and footage coming from Texas were heartbreaking. Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc in the Lone Star State leaving thousands of homes abandoned, covered by several inches of water. Cars were destroyed and highways immersed in floods of water. Residents fled to safety on inflatable boats or by feet, wading through knee-deep and even waist-high water.

Throughout the last decade, the increasingly severe consequences of climate change have brought a number of challenges for the Mesoamerican and the Caribbean region. This has led to increased pressure on human displacement. We still do not fully understand the consequences, it is however crucial for the region’s future development to understand this development.