25 Jul 2022

Policy Dialouge Human Mobility in the context of Climate Change: Towards a Common Narrative and Action Pathway

The era of unprecedented human mobility that we live in, is not only fueled by economic, social and geo-political drivers of migration but increasingly also by the impacts of climate change. Over the past decade, the links between migration, the environment and climate change have risen on the international policy agenda, and have been studied by academics, debated by policymakers, and negotiated by state representatives in several multilateral fora. Climate change, environmental degradation and disasters resulting from natural hazards can and are contributing to displacement and migration, as affected populations need to cope with the negative impacts. 

The growing political interest in the migration, environment and climate change nexus is evidenced by the establishment of global principles in several key frameworks.

Throughout the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), climate change and migration have been referred to numerous times and in 2015, the Paris Climate Change Agreement and COP21 led to the creation of the UNFCCC Task Force on Displacement (TFD) within the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with climate change (WIM), an expert body comprising members with complementary expertise. The TFD has developed a set of recommendations on integrated approaches to averting, minimizing and addressing displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change endorsed by Parties at COP24.

Furthermore, States committed in Objective 2 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) to “minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin”, including increased action to address the adverse impacts of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters on human mobility. In addition, in Objective 5 States committed to “Enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration,” including in the context of sudden and slow-onset disasters, climate change and environmental degradation. 

Two dedicated, state-led initiatives have also provided a means for governments and other stakeholders to discuss and build consensus on cross-border mobility and protection: the Nansen Initiative together with its follow-up, the Platform on Disaster Displacement and the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) Initiative. The Government of Bangladesh assumed the presidency of the PDD and of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) which is an active partnership of the world’s most climate threatened nations working to mobilize ambitious efforts to combat the global climate emergency. 

In Bangladesh, the 710 km long coastal belt covering 19 districts is severely affected by salinity intrusion, cyclones and storm surges, which by intensifying and exacerbating other drivers of migration, such as underlying poverty or loss of livelihoods, are causing people to choose possible mobility options. In the northern part of the country, drought and declining freshwater availability are leading to the same. Apart from these, riverbank erosion and coastal erosion also lead to the displacement of people across the country. All these add up to the increased and unsustainable pace of urbanization, with an almost untenable concentration in Dhaka of countless affected persons and communities. While Bangladesh’s high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change is well known and studied, the migratory and displacement consequences of such are still to be explored in more depth by the international community and Bangladesh society at large.

The recent IPCC working group 2 report has flagged the need to ensure that sustainable development efforts align with climate resilience; only then conditions will exist to offer vulnerable communities adequate solutions and opportunities to adapt or cope with climate change impacts in a safe and dignified way. Climate change is and will certainly continue to play a leading role in internal and international migration and displacement in Bangladesh over the coming years and decades, and the international dialogues and cooperation such as UNFCCC COPs have the potential to play a significant role in determining how adequate support to the Government of Bangladesh will be shaped. 

As such, a Climate Change and Human Mobility Policy Dialogue is being convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA),  Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to understand the different perspectives among the government, civil society, private sector and the international community, and to try to develop a comprehensive and holistic way forward on how to address the issue in national policy-making as well as in relevant international contexts.

The proposed policy dialogue would bring together and engage key stakeholders – governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations and communities – under a common platform to: 

1. Take stock of existing commitments and frameworks related to climate change and human mobility (such as those under the GCM, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the UNFCCC – in particular the Task Force on Displacement under the WIM and the Paris Agreement in general); 
2. Identify the barriers, and potential entry points for Bangladesh to contribute to advancing global discussions on the migration, environment and climate change nexus, in particular in the lead-up to the UNFCCC COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt; 
3. Support South-South and triangular cooperation on the migration, environment and climate change nexus, including by identifying innovative practices and solutions relating to ‘climate migrants’ people on the move in the context of climate change; and 
4. Mobilize broad-based national support and engagement on migration, environment and climate change through the development of a common narrative and key messages as a contribution to the overall national policy development and action. 

Tentative Agenda: 
The proposed dialogues will be the following sessions: 
1. Introductory Session: The dialogue would open through the introductory session by welcoming the participants and setting the scene of human mobility in the context of climate change. 
2. Thematic Session: Discuss global, regional and national level policy framework on human mobility in the context of climate change and reflect on the position of Bangladesh in that regard. 
3. Closing Session: The discussion of the event would be summarized and followed by thanking the participants and the official closing of the dialogue.