From understanding to collective action - Thematic Workshop on Climate Change and Human Mobility

In its capacity as a Co-Chair for the Global forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in 2017-2018, the Ministry Delegate in Charge of Moroccan Living abroad and Migrations affairs organized in Rabat on 24 May 2017 the GFMD Thematic Workshop on Climate Change and Human Mobility: Towards dignified, coordinated and sustainable solutions.”

The workshop was opened by Mr. El Habir Nadir, Secretary General of the Ministry Delegate, who explained that the aim of the workshop was to contribute to the elaboration of the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) and the follow up and implementation of the 2030 Agenda. As well, the workshop aimed to provide tools that would enable States to respond to the challenges created by climate change-associated human mobility. 

During the inaugural session attended by some 150 participants from member states and international organizations, thematic experts, local policymakers, business and civil society, different perspectives and voices of key government and international actors were heard. Mr. Abdelkrim Benoutiq, the Minister Delegate in Charge of the Moroccan Living Abroad and Migration Affairs, called for the sharing of common responsibility and common reflection in order to come up with a universal response characterized by multilevel partnerships that include the civil society and the private sector. 

In her video message, the UN Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on International Migration (SRSG), Mrs. Louise Arbour, highlighted the substantive progress made over the past 25 years in promoting an understanding of the impact of climate change on human mobility. She urged all participants to build upon and implement existing initiatives, such as the Principles and Guidelines on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations, the MICIC initiative or the Protection Agenda in order to protect and empower people on the move.

As a representative of the former 2016 GFMD Chair, Mr. Md. Toufiq-ur Rahman offered the perspective of his country Bangladesh, one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. He pointed to the unique and historical opportunity presented by the GCM for policy makers to adopt concrete adaptation measures in order to prevent and mitigate displacement. Towards this end, Bangladesh envisages an action-oriented and target-based Global Compact on Migration. 

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Hilale, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations in New York, shared about the latest developments in the GCM process, particularly on the 2nd informal thematic session on the “drivers of migration” which had just taken place in New York (22-24 May). He relayed that the said GCM session highlighted four principles:

•    The issue of climate change is very salient, as it affects one person every second worldwide;
•    The link between migration and climate change is complex and multi-faceted; 
•    Member States have the main responsibility and need close international cooperation in ensuring the protection of people affected by climate change;
•    There is an existing normative framework and legal arsenal that Member States can use to face climate change risks.

He underlined that flexible and contextualized measures are necessary in order to reduce risks and address the different vulnerabilities of specific categories of people, including those who cannot move, and especially the most vulnerable groups. 

In his introductory presentation, Mr. Gervais Appave, Special Advisor of IOM Director-General presented five keys towards understanding the nexus between “migration, environment and climate change”:

1.    Terminology: there is no unified and accepted definition of “environmental migrants”;
2.    Multi-causality of migration: it is difficult to isolate environmental factors;
3.    Complexity of environmental and climate change phenomenon;
4.    The concept of vulnerability: it must be put at the center of current responses; and 
5.    The environment-induced migration can also lead to positive results, by reinforcing people’s resilience.

Mr. Appave reiterated the need to continue efforts to do research in the field. He also sounded a call to act, at the level of climate, migratory, development and/or humanitarian policies, as well at the operational level, while taking into account the needs of most vulnerable populations.

In the working session on “Understanding and Taking Action”, the panel and participants looked at the state of advancement of research and knowledge-sharing on migration, environment and climate change, both at the academic and policy levels. The panel highlighted the need to better understand this complex issue and to find flexible solutions for different vulnerabilities. Threats of environmental degradation as a driver of migration were presented, citing the case of Madagascar. Efforts of the academic community in understanding human mobility challenges in the context of climate change were also mentioned. The open discussion emphasized that the key challenges are the lack of reliable quantitative data and assessments to quantify migration, as well as the lack of relevant international protection instruments. Thus, finding a rights-based response will be needed, to ensure the protection of those on the move. 

The working session 2 on “Towards Responsibility Sharing” focused on pursuing greater consistency between the national and the global strategic frameworks, and finding better access to funding for climate migration. Different initiatives towards these ends were cited by panelists and participants.  The Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD), for example, offers a toolbox of effective practices in reducing displacement risks, addressing the root causes of displacement, and meeting the protection needs of people in the context of disasters and climate change. Supported by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the 3S Initiative (Sustainability, Stability and Security in Africa), explores the conditions that force people to migrate, such as critical land shortage or rivalry for natural resources, with the objective to rehabilitate and restore land access and creating new economic opportunities. 

Highlights of the inaugural and subsequent working sessions were presented by the rapporteurs at a concluding session led by Ambassador Götz Schmidt-Bremme of the GFMD 2017-2018 Co-Chair Germany. In his closing remarks, Amb. Schmidt-Bremme took pride in Germany’s close collaboration with Morocco, adding that the Rabat workshop was an important component of the 2017-2018 Co-Chairmanship work plan. Individuals and families, he said, will continue to move in response to the effects of climate change and disasters; and that not all disaster displacements and other types of human mobility can be prevented. In this context, human mobility, whether forced or not, needs to be better managed, based on global partnerships and responsibility-sharing.  

Picking up a metaphor cited earlier by Mr. John Bingham, who moderated the second working session, the German Co-Chair urged participants to move “from poetry to plumbing” as efforts to elaborate a Global Compact on Migration move ahead.  While people tend to remember the COP21 and the Paris Agreement in climate change discourses, he recalled that it was COP22 held in Marrakesh that clearly marked the time for action. On this note, he expressed his hope for an action-oriented Global Compact.