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Transcript of the Online Discussion on Assessing the Impact of a Changing Climate on Human Displacement
Transcript of the Online Discussion on Assessing the Impact of a Changing Climate on Human Displacement
Manila, Philippines 9 February 2011
Jed Saet: Hello everyone and welcome to the online discussion on assessing the impacts of a changing climate to human displacement. I am Jed Saet from the Asian Development Bank and I will be your moderator for this discussion. During the course of the discussion, please send in your questions using the space provided on the bottom part of your screen. Expert panelists for our discussion, Mr. Bob Dobias and Mr. François Gemenne, are online to answer your questions.
Jahedul Huq: What is the definition of Climate induced migration? Is it migration or displacement? How climate can be linked with displacement or migration? In same place, why few migrate others not? Is there any role of state and local institutions to force people migrate?
François Gemenne: There's not really a consensual definition of climate-induced migration. Typically, we consider that it encompasses all people who have to leave their original place of residence because of an environmental disruption that is associated with the impacts of climate change, be it brutal - such as flash floods or hurricanes - or slow-onset, such as sea-level rise or soil degradation.
This being said, the type of movement that is induced can be very diverse: some people will be forced to move (in that case it would be a displacement), some will move voluntarily (in that case it would be migration).
Finally, sometimes moving is just an option amongst many, which explains why some decide not to move at all, or are unable to do so.
Julian: Having lived in Pakistan for five years and knowing the country quite well I was saddened by the very large flood last year. As I have read it is quite likely that climate change has strong effects on the scale of natural disasters in the present and in the future. South Asia in particular is very prone to floodings (because of the yearly monsoon and glaciers melting in the Himalaya). I would like to know what experts expect to happen climatically in the South Asia region in general and if there are any measures being taken to lessen the impact of future catastrophes?
Bob Dobias: Thank you Julian. In South Asia there have been steady efforts toward improving institutional capacities for disaster risk management, especially at the national level. But developing integrated approaches and ensuring partner engagement, including that of civil society, are also important.
Frank: We have seen in recent months many tragic examples of the devastation caused by wide-scale flooding and storm surges. Comparing recent flooding events in Australia with similar events in Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere, one is struck by the enormous differences in loss of life and the pace of recovery. Disaster preparedness is clearly one obvious factor in the disparities. But there must be much more to the story than that. What are your views as to the reasons for the stark differences in this regard?
François Gemenne: Indeed, it is right to point out the enormous differences. A key reason that explains them is the difference in vulnerability. Typically, the social vulnerability of developing countries like Bangladesh or Pakistan will be less important than for developed countries such as Australia. This is explained not only by the fact that some countries are richer than others, but also because of different population densities, disaster preparedness, etc. Vulnerability is compounded by a wide array of factors.
Najibullah Habib: Your technical assistance project emphasizes the risks posed to vulnerable populations by climate change, including adverse weather conditions and natural disasters. Your paper does not mention explicitly the impact of communicable diseases on migrants affected by adverse weather events, such as diarrhea and respiratory diseases, as well as vector-borne diseases that are affected by climate change such as malaria and dengue. How does the ADB propose to minimize the risks to migrants' health from these events?
Bob Dobias: Thanks for the questions, Najib. How migrants are affected depends in large part on where they are. Migrants who remain within their countries are generally in a better position to acquire treatment services. The fact is, migrants often lack health protection when residing outside their country of origin. Particularly exposed are refugees. Migrants and mobile populations should be included in all vulnerability assessments pertaining to climate change. ADB is helping countries to strengthen their social protection systems, including programs within those systems that provide protection to migrants. ADB has also introduced health considerations into discussions on national adaptation strategies.
Brigitta Isworo Laksmi: According to the research, which country among those that the most prepared to face the impact of climate change - especially in migration issues. How about Indonesia?
François Gemenne: Thanks for that question. A key issue is that most countries have not taken migration policies into account when preparing adaptation plans (a key reason for that was that migration policies were not eligible for funding at the time when adaptation strategies were prepared). So countries that have invested a lot in adaptation already (Bangladesh for example) are sometimes ill-equipped to deal with migration issues. A key component of the project will be to mainstream migration issues into adaptation policies.
Michelle Leighton: I'm interested to learn if there are now field studies being undertaken on climate induced migration in Asia and who is undertaking these studies---will the ADB project be collecting its own case studies?
François Gemenne: Hi Michelle. There will be some case-studies as part of the project, but we will also be looking at the studies carried out by local researchers independently from the project. In particular, we aim to build a network of local researchers working on these issues so that an empirical body of case studies can be assembled, and local researchers can be more connected to each other.
Julie: The population on coastal regions will be the most affected by sea-level rise due to climate change and there is going to be population displacement. What remains not such certain to me is how it's going to happen. Will it be the chaos or organized? By organized I mean do some countries have plans to displace their population, are they tacit accords between countries to accept this new type of migrants. And if these agreements don't exist (what I presume) which system could be imagined to minimize chaos?
Bob Dobias: Excellent questions, Julie, thank you. The report broadly identifies areas of vulnerability in the region -- the so-called "hot spots". These are good places to start taking a proactive stance to future climate-induced migration by targeting these vulnerable areas for special assistance to build resilience to climate change. In this way, communities can better adapt to changing conditions. The instruments used to address climate-induced migration will be determined by the concerned communities and countries, and solutions will be site specific. However, a good place to start is to consider lessons learned, both good and not-so-good, of past and ongoing practices associated with migration generally.
Gasber: Does the UNHCR also take into account climate change refugees? Or is there a plan to have another UN Agency to care only about that issue? Furthermore can a climate change refugee claim for asylum and in the case if, is it nowadays frequently used?
François Gemenne: Thanks for the question, Gasber. Technically speaking, it is not part of UNHCR's mandate to assist 'climate change refugees': according to the 1951 Geneva Convention, they should not be considered as 'refugees'. However, in a number of emergency situations, UNHCR has provided assistance and protection to people displaced by disasters, and so did IOM, the International Organisation for Migration. Currently there is no plan to have a UN agency dedicated only to this issue. And people displaced by climate events cannot claim asylum, as environmental events are not considered a reason that justify a claim for asylum. Many scholars and NGOs are pushing for this to change. So far, only Sweden and Finland grant asylum to people displaced by natural disasters. Some countries sometimes grant temporary protection status. And nothing exists for those displaced by slow-onset events.
Oliver: People flee from flooded communities all the time. How is that different from climate-induced migration, or is that a form of climate-induced migration?
François Gemenne: Thanks for the question, Oliver. Typically, it is extremely difficult to draw a clear line between the environmental disruptions that are directly related to climate change and those that are not. In the current state of science, it is still difficult to attribute any specific climate event to climate change. And this is especially the case for floods. What is important, however, is that climate change will intensify the frequency and the magnitude of the floods, and I think this is how we should see the problem: for the people displaced, it doesn't make much difference whether the flood is directly related to climate change or not.
David Lansley: I am interested in the panel's view on the scope for migration to have a positive impact on poverty reduction. Dani Rodrik and others have argued that migration can have a major impact. Is there the potential, perhaps through international agreement to increase temporary and/or permanent migrant intake resulting from climate induced movement?
Bob Dobias: Thank you, David. Properly addressing migration could have a positive impact on poverty reduction and could be a positive response to climate change. One of the real challenges -- or opportunities -- is to get ahead of the curve by identifying where the most vulnerable populations are and focus development support in these areas. Where migration occurs, it is important to consider that most migration will occur within a country's borders, and so sufficient preparation on the part of receiving communities, provision of livelihood opportunities, and so on will be important. The type of support would, of course, depend on conditions in the area.
Benoît Mayer: What international financial tools exist today to finance climate migration? In particular, does the Kyoto Adaptation Fund funds migration programs? What about the future Cancun Green Climate Fund?
François Gemenne: Yes, Benoît, it is actually one of the key achievements of Cancun with regard to migration. Policies dealing with migration and displacement are now eligible for funding as part of adaptation, and this was not the case before.
Eva Hostettler: Hi, I am Eva Hostettler from Sydney. Thank you for the useful Draft report. With regard to resettlement plans, are there any projects on education, information and participation of the affected as well as the host community? With regard to protection instruments, what framework would you prefer and why, if you could chose (international, regional, hard law, soft law)?
François Gemenne: Hi, Eva. Resettlement plans are always extremely tricky, as they are often imposed upon communities without prior consultation, let alone approval. I think we need to deal with them on a case-by-case basis, putting the interests of the communities first. I very much agree that the education and information of the host community is absolutely fundamental, for example in order to avoid tensions or competition between communities. As for legal frameworks, typically those that exist already are related to resettlements induced by development projects. We'll have to see whether these are appropriate or not - and if not, design our own.
Mutya Sivananda: So how can we ensure partner engagement and civil society cooperation?
Bob Dobias: Hi, Mutya. Dealing with climate-induced migration will require action at a number of levels, local, national, and international. Ultimately, though, the nature of the support will depend on site-specific conditions. Where there are strong local institutions for engagement of stakeholders, these should be used. Where such institutions are weak, they will need to be strengthened. Vulnerability assessments and similar tools must have elements that will allow an assessment of the capacity to bring in stakeholders and actions taken based on the assessments.
Brigitta Isworo Laksmi: Why there are difference in the countries' attitude toward that issues? What caused it? Economy, politics, or social factors that had hampered that antisipation or prepareness?
François Gemenne: It can be a wide range of reasons, including politics (and also local politics), the state of the economy, or simply perceptions about the threats faced by the country. As for migration, it is typically a policy area that is quite sensitive, and addressed very differently across countries - also for the reason that the migration flows that countries have to deal with are very different from country to country. Also, the local dimension of adaptation needs to be taken into account: community-based adaptation can be a very efficient strategy in the fight against the impacts of climate change.
Michelle Leighton: Thanks. Do you already have a list of researchers/case studies now being undertaken in the region that you could share?
François Gemenne: Sure Michelle - we are in the process of compiling that list right now - the project has just started, really! And we'll certainly share it once it is completed.
Tom: Because slow-onset environmental change interacts with other drivers of migration, how difficult will it be to distinguish migration that has occurred as a result of climate change from migration that would have occurred anyway? How important is this problem of attribution?
Bob Dobias: Good question, Tom. The report takes the position that climate-induced migration is currently a relatively minor driver of migration. Motivations to move are myriad, and attributing a move to one or another cause can be difficult. One would imagine that many responses to the question "Why did you move?" would be economically related even when environmental problems may have been a contributing factor. Consequently, it may be best to consider climate-induced migrations within the context of migration generally. However, being able to attribute migration to climate change may become important in the context of funding.
Cyril: I am sorry but I think many countries are selfish on the questions about climate change. Do you think they can help each other when they face the climate change-induced migration? If they can't, will the situation be more chaos? And if a country wants to handle the problem well, I think it may be puzzled by the people from the next countries. How ADB to coordinate these conflicts?
François Gemenne: It is true that the issue of migration is often addressed on a national level, with very little international cooperation. We believe that mechanisms of cooperation should be set up to assist countries dealing with climate-induced migration, precisely to avoid the problems you just pointed at. It is one of the key goals of the project to foster cooperation between countries on the issue of climate-induced migration, so that tensions can be avoided. But it will require serious consultation with governments, as this is an area where virtually no mechanisms of cooperation exist.
YannickFiedler: Given that the UNHCR does not taken into account climate change refugees, is there a chance to create an international organization at that aim?
François Gemenne: It is highly unlikely: creating a new international organization is always very difficult, and takes a lot of time. Furthermore, it is possible that other organizations such as UNHCR or IOM could take care of some aspects of the problem. We perceive that the urgency is more about fostering international cooperation in this field, and finding a way to finance this cooperation, rather than creating a new organization or agency.
Yu-Tzu Chiu: Hello! Question from Yu-Tzu Chiu, Bureau of National Affairs: Would you please give more details about potential dangers that megacities in coastal areas are facing? What possible strategies are urgently needed now for future disaster mitigation?
Bob Dobias: Thank you for this thoughtful question. Clearly, direct dangers include sea level rise and storm surges. But climate change impacts in rural areas can potentially increase the number of people moving to cities, and so proactive urban development programs that increase the quality of life of urban inhabitants have never been as important as they are today. Low-carbon development strategies come to mind immediately because they can help reduce the cause of climate change as well as produce co-benefits that can improve air quality, make transport easier and more affordable for urban poor, and produce cleaner urban communities through efficient solid waste management, for example. And let's not forget our secondary cities, where results may sometimes be a bit more immediate and actions more manageable.
N.J. Ahmad: Thanks for offering this live online discussion! The press has eagerly reported on the recent study by ADB on climate induced migration with some rather scary headlines "ADB says Asian and Pacific Countries will become uninhabitable due to climate" or "climate change tipped to spark immigration wave". Can you elaborate on the science behind the headlines and perhaps discuss how best to communicate the results of such studies so that journalists can report responsibly on the findings? Also, what is the operational distinction between assisting migrants who have been induced to migrate by climate impacts among other factors, as opposed to migrants who are migrating for non-climate related reasons?
François Gemenne: You raise a very good point. The appetite of the media for sensationalist headlines is well-known, and it was unavoidable that such headlines would come up. What we say in the study is that climate-induced migration should be anticipated, addressed and supported, but certainly not feared. We believe it can be a positive adaptation strategy if properly addressed. Overall, we don't think migrants displaced by climate impacts should be set apart from migrants displaced by other (socio-economic) factors: on the contrary, it is important to recognise that climate-induced migration is part of broader migration dynamics, and is not a discrete category. But we also think that it could be an opportunity to foster better international cooperation to deal with migration issues at large, recognising the increasingly important role that environmental disruptions play in migration decisions.
Benoît Mayer: Do you think that a "climate refugee convention" is likely to be ratified?
François Gemenne: It's quite unlikely I think. Any international convention on migration/refugees would extremely difficult to agree upon, and would take a very long time to be implemented. At this stage, we think it would be more useful to focus on regional policies and mechanisms that can provide more immediate solutions.
Jed Saet: We are almost out of time for the discussion. We will no longer accept new questions from the audience, but Bob and François will answer some of the questions submitted earlier.
Ximena Flores: This is Ximena Flores from AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand. Based on the outcomes of your project/research, I would like to know what are the main linkages between climate change, migration and resettlements? What are the main highlights for the larger Pacific Island countries (Samoa, for instance)?
François Gemenne: As I was saying in answering another question, the issue of resettlement is probably the most difficult to deal with. For some island countries, it is likely that some resettlement schemes will be needed to relocate some communities living in areas at risk. That has already been the case in the past, for example in Papua New Guinea. The good news for the larger Pacific island countries is that it will usually be possible to resettle communities inland. In any case, these resettlement schemes will need to be carefully prepared, and accepted by the communities.
Daan Boom: Migration (or displacement) is in itself not a new phenomena and it has happened since a long time for albeit different reasons (economically, politically). What are actually the drivers of climate migration and are Asian countries working on strategies to address the specific drivers for climate migration?
Bob Dobias: Thank you, Daan. Climate-induced migration today is a relatively minor driver among many, including the ones you mentioned, and so the report suggests that dealing with climate-induced migration in the context of migration more generally would be a reasonable way to proceed. We have an opportunity to get ahead of the curve here. The report has taken a preliminary, but important, step by identify areas that may be especially vulnerable to climate-induced migration. Much more refined work is needed, but by focusing development assistance in areas of high vulnerability, we can build resilience in communities in these areas. Some actions are being taken especially in the realm of disaster risk reduction in several countries, and we need to build on those.
Tori Timms: What are the ADB's plans (if any) to support governments living in 'frontline' countries? Do you think all focus is on building capacity, or is there a reactive aspect to this that ADB will work on? Particularly, I am interested to know whether it would help strengthen the UNHCR/IOM or a new legal instrument? Thanks.
François Gemenne: Hi Tori. Because I'm not ADB staff, I can't speak directly to what ADB will or will not do, but as the project's team leader, I can tell you that we certainly intend to work closely with UNHCR, IOM and other organizations already involved in the issue, including NGOs and the civil society at large. Capacity building is certainly important, and we will work with and assist governments at the frontlines of climate change. At the same time, we believe that our role should also to partner with other organisations in the field, and try to find avenues to finance cooperation mechanisms.
Julien: What needs to be achieved on an international level? What would an ideal multinational cooperation look like in your opinion?
François Gemenne: It's difficult to say what would be an ideal multinational cooperation. I guess it is one where all countries would agree to share resources so that migrants would be welcome in any place they'd like to go, but this is unlikely to happen. A more realistic goal, I think, would be to show countries why and how it is in their best interest to cooperate in this field, and not just deal with it on a national level. It seems to me that our role should be to make countries realise the mutual benefits of cooperation.
François Gemenne: you're very welcome.
Claire Whitehill: To what extent do small island states engage with countries other than NZ and Australia around long-term climate-induced migration policies? And what is their capacity to engage in such policy debates?
François Gemenne: There are certainly discussions going on, but nothing meaningful has yet been achieved with regard to long-term climate-induced migration policies. Typically, it is always difficult for a 'sending' state to engage into such discussion with a potential 'receiving' state. This is why this project will seek to provide a platform for such discussions, and make sure that the interests of small island states are well-represented.
Claire Whitehill: What are / can be the roles of (i) ADB and (ii) local civil society and (iii) international NGOs in this field—especially in the Pacific?
Bob Dobias: Thank you, Claire. ADB, together with the World Bank, is engaged in the Pacific on a country-led effort called Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, or PPCR. This is a good example of how agencies like the ADB and World Bank, together with local civil society, governments, and international NGOs can work together in identifying the issues of greatest importance to them and the best ways to address those issues. More information on the PPCR can be had at the web site for the Climate Investment Funds (http://www.climateinvestmentfunds.org/cif/).
Bob Dobias: I understand we are out of time. There was considerable interest in this topic. Our apologies to those whose questions we couldn't get to, but we do look forward to further engagement with you in other venues.
Loren: The report notes that women are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts. What are the best practices regionally, or globally for protecting women migrants? How do we replicate these practices to ensure women's safety in passage, temporary residences and assure permanent safe relocation for those who choose to move as a result of climate related events?
Francois Gemenne: Women generally face more constraints to their mobility than men due to their prevailing gender roles, which means it is more difficult for them to make a conscious choice to relocate as a result of climate change induced events. Therefore it is imperative to empower women to have greater access to and control over productive resources - and to invest in building women's adaptive capacity and disaster preparedness - particularly where men are migrating in larger numbers and gender roles are subsequently evolving. In contexts where women are migrating, it is essential to provide mechanisms that minimize women's exposure to physical and sexual violence and trafficking during transit and in temporary and new locations, make available reproductive health services, and supply basic water and sanitation to alleviate the added work burden on women. It is also important to be mindful of, and respond to, gender dimensions of psychological stress which comes from overcrowding, lack of privacy and disrupted routines. The project team draws upon the expertise of a gender specialist to make sure that these concerns are properly addressed.
Francois Gemenne: Alright - thanks a lot for the questions everyone. Sorry we couldn't address all of them, but keep in touch about the progress and developments of the project. Have a good day/evening!
Jed Saet: That's all the time we have. We'd like to thank everyone who participated in this discussion.