Migration Environment and Climate Change

Migration, environment and climate change (MECC) are interrelated. Just as environmental degradation and climate change can cause migration, the movement of people can also result in the degradation of surrounding ecosystems. This complex nexus needs to be addressed in a holistic and sustainable manner, taking into account other possible mediating factors including, inter alia, human security and social and economic development.

“Environmental migrants are persons or groups of persons who, predominantly for reasons of sudden or progressive change in the environment that adversely affects their lives or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their country or abroad” (IOM, 2011:33).

Migration, when well managed,  can be a sustainable adaptation strategy to adverse climate and environmental change. However, whilst migration can be a coping mechanism and survival strategy for those who move, mass migration can also have significant environmental repercussions for areas of origin, areas of destination, and the migratory routes in between and contribute to further environmental degradation. Additionally, IOM also recognizes that the cost of migration is often high, and the most vulnerable may be those who do not have the economic and social capital to move to seek new opportunities. The most vulnerable may therefore be these ‘trapped populations.’

In the East and Horn of Africa (EHoA) region, environmental considerations play an increasingly important role in migration management and policy-making. Climate predictions for the 21st century indicate that even more people are expected to be on the move as weather-related disasters become more frequent and intense, strongly attributed to anthropogenic global warming. The EHoA region is highly vulnerable to extreme weather events, particularly with an increasing intensity of both precipitation and drought.

Building on the extensive research undertaken by the MECC Division, in the EHOA region IOM will intensify its work to reduce the vulnerability of populations exposed to environmental risk factors (with a focus on the gendered dimension); enhance the resilience of populations on the move such as pastoralists, returnees and IDPs and; build their capacity to protect the environment. IOM will strengthen its support to governments in establishing systems and increasing capacities to manage environmentally induced migration at local, national and regional levels. IOM will strengthen existing partnerships at the regional level and pursue new partnerships to ensure that migrant’s rights, needs and perspectives are considered in environment and climate change policy and decision-making processes.