The forecasts are alarming. Recent reporting from the World Bank, the High Level Panel on Internally Displaced Persons, the UN’s Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change all highlight the intensification of natural hazards, environmental degradation and negative impacts of climate change directly driving human mobility.
The World Bank’s latest Groundswell report tells us that a staggering 55 million people were living in internal displacement at the end of 2020 with disasters and climate change now responsible for the vast majority of these displacements. If no substantive action is taken, an additional 200 million people may be internally displaced over the next 25 years, something that would constitute the most visible impacts of climate change.
Disasters have become a leading cause of forced displacement globally, with the region hosting this year’s Global Platform – Asia and the Pacific – experiencing the majority of these new displacements. Reducing disaster risk is not only one of IOM’s key institutional priorities but a global governance challenge that requires greater investment, attention and most importantly concerted action.
Tragically, the looming crisis of Internal displacement is still usually viewed as a short-term humanitarian issue, but we must change gears and move from reacting to exposure to risks to addressing them via Climate Resilient Development.
While humanitarian organizations play a critical role in saving lives and alleviating suffering, internal displacement remains the primary obligation of States. Understanding, preparing, averting and mitigating displacement must come in tandem with durable solutions, for populations already displaced and that can be so in a near future, while addressing protection gaps and reducing risks for those most at risk including migrants.
The launch of the working group II contribution to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report in February further reinforces the growing body of evidence that climate change is having profound impacts on human mobility. The role that human mobility plays in inclusive growth, sustainable development, and resilience-building - especially for disaster risk reduction – has further achieved global recognition.
IOM worked closely with its Member States and partners to include dimensions of human mobility and displacement within the Sendai Framework in order to capture the complexity and significance of population movements as a key dynamic of disaster risk and resilience. At the same time, migration is one of the adaptation strategies also acknowledged within the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.
The Sendai Framework not only recognizes displacement as a principal consequence of disaster, but also acknowledges the important contributions that migrants can make in addressing risk drivers and promoting resilience. Migrants, through their positive contributions, embody resilience within our communities and our economies, as was demonstrated thought the COVID 19 pandemic and in other disasters.
From 17-20 May, the General Assembly and the UN Migration Network will host the first International Migration Review Forum in New York. The IMRF is the primary intergovernmental platform to discuss progress on the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration. The GCM contains several intergovernmental commitments relating to migration in the context of climate change, aimed at minimizing the adverse drivers that compel people to move and at enhancing the availability of pathways for regular migration.
Relatedly, the seventh session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GP22) set to take place in Bali this month and hosted by the Government of Indonesia and UNDRR will be an important opportunity to not only take stock of progress and challenges, but also to identify good practices to accelerate the implementation of the Sendai Framework at the local, national, regional and global level.
As the forum will mark the half-way point of the journey to reach the Sendai Framework targets in 2030, GP22 should serve as positive momentum for governments, DRR stakeholders, and the UN system to reconfirm and advance their commitments.
Given that the global climate crisis will continue to have major implications for all societies and in particular vulnerable communities', with the number of people displaced by disasters expected to rise dramatically over the coming years. Climate change will extend the risk of displacement to new countries that have not previously faced large disaster displacement challenges.
Moreover, climate change impacts will not be felt by all countries equally. Those with fewer resources or more direct exposure to hazards will face more severe effects. In the Sahel, communities reliant on pastoralism are suffering from severe drought and increasing desertification. In the Pacific's Small Island Developing States, rising sea levels pose an existential threat where entire islands may become uninhabitable. Coastal communities across the Indo-Pacific are seeing increased cyclones and tropical storms that wreak havoc on their daily lives destroying infrastructure and livelihoods.
Humanity’s ability to collectively limit temperature rise is now a life-saving goal for an increasingly large number of our world’s inhabitants.
IDPs themselves are forced from their homes, uprooted from their livelihoods and separated from their support networks. Many live in dangerous conditions and continue to face significant risks and violations of their rights. Women and girls are exposed to heightened levels of sexual and gender-based violence. Children lose access to formal education and are more vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups and trafficking. IDPs often lack livelihoods and are counted among the poorest of the poor, without secure shelter and food while being exposed to health, and socio-economic risks.
As IOM it is imperative that we work with our Member States and partners to reduce disaster risk linked to internal displacement as a key institutional priority.
IOM is actively responding, in a holistic way, to the four priorities of the Sendai Framework through its programming.
As of May 2022, the organization is implementing over 250 Risk Reduction, Climate Action and Adaptation related projects in some of the world’s gravest humanitarian emergencies including Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, DRC, Sudan, Mozambique, South Sudan and Nigeria.
Globally, we work closely with local and national governments, civil society, migrants and affected communities, to define and grow state and community level understanding of disaster risk. In Papua New Guinea, Burundi, the Philippines, and Vanuatu, we work with national civil protection agencies and local authorities, utilizing local knowledge and resources to put in place disaster risk management committees, contingency planning processes and early warning systems for communities.
Importantly, IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix is one of the world’s largest repositories of information on displacement patterns and population mobility. It is designed to systematically capture, process and disseminate information on movements and forecast the evolving needs of displaced populations. Operational in over 100 countries, DTM tracked over 31 million displaced persons in 2020.
The organization views partnerships and community participation and engagement as essential to reducing risk. In the framework of government-led, multi-stakeholder partnerships, such as the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) Initiative, The Mayors Migration Council, the Platform on Disaster Displacement and the African Climate Mobility Initiative, we support the inclusion of migrants and displaced persons’ concerns and priorities in disaster risk reduction actions, given the specific vulnerabilities these groups face.
Presently, IOM and UNDP are the global co-chairs of the Capacity for Disaster Reduction Initiative (CADRI)- which has supported more than 30 countries with establishment of DRR coordination mechanisms and associated policy and systems.
In Afghanistan, Philippines, Libya, and Sudan, IOM is investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience by assisting tens of thousands of people to recover from disasters by rebuilding homes, restoring infrastructure and supporting livelihoods contributing to strengthening climate resilient development.
Now more than ever, it is critical that IOM, its partners and the communities we work with build upon forward-looking, multi-hazard risk-informed approaches: we need to invest today to build resilience and adaptive capacity to tomorrow’s disasters, especially as they relate to hazards that will be amplified by climate change globally.
In conclusion, we must work together – humanitarians with development and climate practitioners, outside of our comfort zones, collaborating in new ways focused on:
- Integrating climate mobility into green, resilient and inclusive development planning;
- Investing in understanding the adverse drivers of climate migration through evidence-based research, models, and consultations, to inform a coherent policy response including through scaling up broad partnerships, IOM’s Global Data Institute will be a pivotal element
- Protection and the safety, security, and rights of IDPs should guide how we engage with authorities and design new climate change mitigation strategies.
- Scaling up access to predictable global climate financing to address climate change-related human mobility and support adaptation
- Supporting coherent and consistent UN-wide approaches to implement key policy processes including the full delivery on the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework commitments
- Promotion of partnerships among public, private and non-profit actors with the inclusion of migrants and IDPs themselves in negotiation processes.
- Strengthening joint visibility and advocacy on climate mobility.
These actions must happen at all levels – global, national and most importantly local, where resilience can only be built with and by communities. It is important to remember that human mobility can save lives, enhance resilience and reduce risks; but it can also lead to vulnerabilities when not managed in a safe, dignified and orderly way.