Comprehensive, coordinated and targeted solutions needed to address climate displacement

The Global Forum on Migration and Development is a voluntary, informal, non-binding and government-led process open to all States Members and Observers of the United Nations, to advance understanding and cooperation on the mutually reinforcing relationship between migration and development and to foster practical and action-oriented outcomes. The ninth forum will take place in Bangladesh 10-12 December 2016.

Climate displacement is a growing issue faced by millions of people and its impacts can be felt at the international, regional, national and sub-national level. Despite this, climate displacement has, to date, been dealt with in an ad hoc manner in international and domestic fora.

Mary Robinson presented the case for protecting the rights of climate displaced people at the Third Thematic Workshop on Migration for Peace, Stability and Growth, in preparation for the ninth Global Forum on Migration, which took place in the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 19 July.

As experts gathered to discuss the governance of global migration, Mary Robinson said that “while the drivers of displacement and crisis migration are many and varied, climate change is a threat multiplier, exacerbating the difficulties and challenges faced by the most vulnerable people – including women and girls who face terrible threats to their security and rights when migrating.”

Climate change is causing global temperatures to increase above pre-industrial levels, leading to a range of climate impacts from drought and floods, to changes in seasons and rising sea levels, all of which may contribute to people making the decisions, or being forced to move. The Foundation supports the view that displacement that is caused substantially by the impacts of climate change can and should be classified as ‘climate displacement’.

Drawing on ‘Protecting the Rights of Climate Displaced People,’ the position paper published by the Foundation, Mary Robinson said that it is critical that comprehensive, coordinated and targeted solutions are found to address climate displacement as the impacts of climate change will be more keenly felt in the decades to come.

Michele Klein-Solomon, Director of the Migration Policy and Research Department, International Organisation for Migration echoed these points, noting that the solutions are in most cases not in the migration and refugee space, but can be found in the human rights treaties, Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The impacts of climate change can lead to displacement that does not fit within current international law or norms. At present, the rights of climate displaced people are not always protected. The Foundation seeks to ensure the protection of climate displaced people is assured starting with a prioritisation of this issue by international bodies.

The Foundation makes three recommendations in the position paper:

  • Increase the understanding of the issue
  • Amplify the voices of climate displaced people, to create an understanding at the international level of the need to protect their rights.
  • Develop a Climate Justice Framework for Action.

The Foundation believes that by ensuring the enactment of these recommendations in the context of the principles of climate justice, including the respect for and protection of human rights, effective and resilient solutions can be found for climate displaced people.

Related Links

Protecting the Rights of Climate Displaced People

Mary Robinson ‘Governing Migration – Addressing displacement and crisis migration’

Global Forum on Migration and Development

Brookings Institute Project on Internal Displacement; Climate Change and Internal Displacement

International Bar Association – ‘Achieving Justice and Human Rights in an Era of Climate Disruption’

Selina Leem, from the Marshall Islands which are under significant threat from rising sea levels speaking at the closing plenary of COP21.