Migration as a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy

The objective of the MECLEP Project was to study how migration, displacement, and planned relocation can improve adaptation to environmental and climate change. Photo: IOM

In late March 2017, the IOM published the final report for a project on Migration, Environment, and Climate Change: Evidence for Policy (MECLEP), which concluded that in many cases migration contributes to adaptation to environmental and climate change, as it allows affected families to diversify their income, improve their employment, health, and education opportunities, and prepare them to better face future dangers caused by natural factors.

The study also showed how the displacement of persons due to natural dangers poses more challenges to adaptation, since it often increases the vulnerability of those displaced. The survey conducted by the MECLEP Project in Haiti confirms the results of previous studies (Gütermann and Schneider, 2011; Courbage, et al., 2013; Sherwood, et al., 2014): the vulnerability of the persons displaced by the 2010 earthquake increased after the earthquake. Many of these people ended up living for several years without basic services such as potable water, food, restrooms, sanitation, and adequate protection. On the other hand, however, seasonal migration (temporary migration without a permanent change of residence) turned out to be a positive adaptation strategy in Haiti.

Consequently, one policy-related recommendation that came out of the study points out the importance of doing everything possible to avoid the displacement of persons, while facilitating other forms of mobility such as seasonal migration, thus strengthening the resilience of famililes in the face of natural dangers and reducing the risk of disasters.

The study calls for preventing the displacement of persons, while facilitating other forms of mobility such as seasonal migration. Photo: IOM

Other recommendations

Another important point highlighted by the MECLEP research refers to planned relocation, which can be a successful adaptation strategy while also exposing the population to new vulnerabilities. For example, field research conducted in the Dominican Republic (focused primarily on relocation of the population of Boca de Cachón, Jimaní, affected by the rising waters of Lake Enriquillo), shows that the relocation was positive in that it provided access to housing for the community, but the scarcity of water in the new lands ruled out farming, thus causing a great loss of the population’s ties to the land. In this sense, the study’s multiple recommendations for policy makers included the need to formulate politics and design relocation programmes with a socio-territorial focus and an emphasis on social participation when putting adaptation measures into practice.

Other important policy-related recommendations point out the need to integrate migration into urban planning efforts in order to reduce challenges for both the migrants and the destination communities, as well as the need to give special consideration to gender-related issues and the needs of the most vulnerable groups.

Generally speaking, the MECLEP Project stressed the importance, for countries affected by climate change, of gathering data and carrying out research on the connection between migration and climate change, in order to formulate proper policy responses. Workshops based on the first training manual focusing on the theme of migration, the environment, and climate change helped to develop tools for integrating human mobility into climate change adaptation plans and incuding environmental aspects in Haiti’s draft migratory policy.

The MECLEP Project, financed by the European Union and executed by the IOM with a consortium of six universities, concluded in late March 2017 after three years of implementation (January 2014 — March 2017). The objective of the Project was to study how migration, displacement, and planned relocation can improve adaptation to environmental and climate change, by comparing data gathered in six countries (the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Kenya, the Republic of Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, and Vietnam), as part of the IOM’s broader efforts in the area of migration, the environment, and climate change.

Further Information

About the Authors:

Irene Leonardelli worked as a Research Assistant at the IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre in Berlin. Between October 2015 and March 2017, she collaborated with the MECLEP Project (Migration, Environment and Climate Change: Evidence for Policy). Leonardelli holds a Master’s Degree in International Migration and Social Cohesion from the University of Amsterdam, as well as a Licentiate Degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Bologne.

Guillermo Lathrop is a staff member at the Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLACSO), where he has worked on issues related to local economic development. Lathrop collaborated with the MECLEP Project in 2015 and 2016. In addition, he served as a conference speaker on regional development at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Holland. He holds a graduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the Catholic University of Chile.

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