New study discusses link between migration and climate change
On September 29, GMF’s Immigration and Integration program released the findings for its Transatlantic Study Team on Climate-Induced Migration. Study Team co-chairs, Susan Martin of Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of International Migration and Koko Warner of the United Nations University in Bonn, led the presentation of their findings along with Study Team member Sarah Collinson. The Study Team’s findings focused on four principle issues: the impact of climate change on migration patterns and trends; adaption strategies; emergency displacement; and migration policies and frameworks.
Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and Michael Werz, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, responded to the findings. Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan delivered the opening remarks which touched upon Mexico’s role in hosting both COP-16 and the Global Forum on Migration and Development in the next year.
Arguing that climate change exacerbates migration patterns, the Study Team recognized the difficulties in providing direct and determinative casual linkages between climate change and migration. Although migration can be a positive and useful way to adapt to climate change, there are many situations in which it is not a viable option. Sarah Collinson spoke about the need for humanitarian aid, not just as an emergency response to climate related disasters, but also to chronically vulnerable states that lack the resources for state-led adaption strategies.
When the presentation turned to policy recommendations, the Study Team pointed out the lack of clear standards and accountability mechanisms to address climate-induced migration, but recognized the progress made with internally displaced persons. Suggesting it was too early to discuss conventions, the Study Team instead recommended drawing from existing laws and identifying current gaps in legislation as well as a greater focus on the science of climate change and migration.
In response to the presentation, Luc Gnacadja spoke about marginalized communities in the drylands and the need for national level planning to address climate-induced migration. Michael Werz’s response offered a policy suggestion. He recommended enlarging the issue of climate-induced migration into a security and foreign policy framework, thereby involving the military community and providing the opportunity to push this issue politically.
When the presentation opened up for discussion, the usefulness of the securitization of climate-induced migration was questioned. Joel Charny of Refugees International, stated that since everything has become a security issue adding climate-induced migration into the mix would delay the process because it would have to work through the Department of Defense.
During the discussion, the Study Team was also asked to speak more in-depth about their policy recommendations and the type of legal framework and guiding principles that should be used. Susan Martin responded by saying that there are three separate issues which need to be pulled together and addressed including the rights of those who migrate, the responsibilities of the national government, and the responsibilities of the international community. The conclusion was to build off of current legislation and increase dialogues among policy makers on this issue.