Progress Towards Protecting the Rights of Climate Displaced People through the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

Disasters were responsible for 23.5 million new displacements in 2016, with 97% caused by weather and climate-related events. Almost 12.9 million displacements across the globe were resultant from the impact of storms such as Hurricane Matthew, which caused over 1 million people to be evacuated in Cuba alone. The hurricane accounts for all of the recorded internal displacement in the Cuba, and large portions of displacement in the U.S. and Haiti. Climate change is driving extreme weather events which has a greater impact on people who are in vulnerable situations. Credit: AIDF


On 13 July 2018 Governments agreed on landmark text for the Global Compact for Safe,Orderly and Regular Migration (the Global Compact).  This represents a completion of the intergovernmental negotiations, the final stage before the General Assembly is expected to consider the compact for adoption at an intergovernmental conference to be held in Morocco in December 2018.

This, the end of an almost two year process, has demonstrated the international community’s commitment to finding better solutions for migration, and more cohesive international policy setting.  Beginning in September of 2016 with the New York Declaration the process for agreeing the Global Compact has demonstrated the importance for many countries of developing a toolkit for addressing climate displacement, as one of many forms of migration.

The Foundation welcomes the final draft, which continues to contain a strong human rights based approach, including a guiding principle that ‘the Global Compact is based on international human rights law and upholds the principles of non-regression and non-discrimination’.  This is further backed by a commitment to incorporate a whole-of-society approach including ‘migrants, diaspora’s, local communities, civil society, academia, the private sector, parliamentarians, trade unions, National Human Rights Institutions, the media and other relevant stakeholders in migration governance.’  This commitment will be an key pillar in ensuring responses to climate displacement, which is best approached through engagement with, and participation by, impacted populations.

The Foundation also welcomes the strong language on climate change as a driver of migration.  In particular the sub-section in Objective 2 ‘Natural disasters, the adverse effects of climate change, and environmental degradation’ includes significant commitments in this area.  Including at paragraph (h) which links human rights, climate change, displacement and data gathering and echoes recommendations in the Foundation’s position paper.

Ms. Louise Arbour, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for International Migration, said as the text was finalised, “Human mobility will be with us, as it has always been. Its chaotic, dangerous exploitative aspects cannot be allowed to become a new normal. The implementation of the Compact will bring safety, order and economic progress to everyone’s benefit.”

The document will now await adoption by the General Assembly, and the Foundation will continue to monitor the process and support countries leading up to the adoption conference in Morocco in December.  We call on all countries to support the adoption process and begin applying the commitments in the Compact before this date as a demonstration of good faith and unity of purpose.

Related Links

Our Work on Human Rights and Climate Change

Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration