By Akanimo Sampson
There is a growing concern among environmental experts and activists as climatic factors are threatening to internally displace 143 million people.
This disaster of nature is a major driver of migration, and the World Bank estimates that some 143 million people could be internally displaced in only three regions (Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America) by 2050, as result of climate change.
On Friday, March 15, experts and activists gathered during the fourth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) to discuss the complex nexus between climate change and migration.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Labovitz, said ‘’for centuries, millions of people across the globe have migrated due to climate change and environmental drivers, but the difference now is that man-made climate change is increasing the severity, frequency and geographical range of environmental disasters.’’
Adding, he said, ‘’this means that vulnerable communities are at even greater risk than ever, and we have seen global evidence of that already. Through the Global Compact for Migration, Member States have recognised this existential global threat, and outlined comprehensive measures to protect migrants by minimising climate change and environmental drivers, build resilience and also facilitate safe and orderly migration as an adaptation strategy.’’
He was speaking at a side event on environment and migration aimed at bringing to light various dimensions and solutions to environmental migration in the context of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM).
The event brought together policy makers, agencies, governments and others for a discussion on shared concerns, priorities and concrete next steps.
Continuing, Labovitz said, ‘’the need for stakeholders, including governments and development partners to collaborate to develop comprehensive strategies to better manage environmental migration, to address its challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities it presents, has never been more urgent.’’
The event was organised by IOM, the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The event was happening three months after leaders from 164 countries met in Marrakech, Morocco, to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Popularly known as the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), it was endorsed on December 19, with 152 member states voting in favour of the resolution.
The GCM identifies climate change as a driver of migration.
Moreover, the GCM articulates a comprehensive understanding of the challenges associated with the environment-migration nexus and formulates a range of potential responses to support states and migrants.
At the event, Habibo Muse, a Somali national who migrated to Kenya in part due to the effects of drought in her country, shared her experience on how she and others incurred huge economic losses and endured severe hardships.
‘’It is incumbent upon us to develop policies and measures that will cushion people against climate-related disasters while at the same time conserving the environment’’, Labovitz said.