Regional Meeting Spotlights Climate Migration and Displacement

The Pacific Climate Change and Migration (PCCM) project held a regional meeting from 7-9 December, 2016 to consider key priorities and responsibilities for advancing commitments under international and regional policy frameworks on climate change migration and displacement.

Senior Pacific island government officials from Nauru, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa and the Solomon Islands, as well as development partners and various experts discussed issues around the development-migration nexus in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); building resilience through labour mobility; migration and displacement as they relate to loss and damage under the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage; and regional mechanisms to address the needs of migrants and displaced persons.

The regional meeting was a collaboration between the European Union funded Pacific Climate Change and Migration Project, implemented by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP); the International Labour Organisation (ILO); the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), with support from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations University (UNU).

Delivering the keynote address at the opening of the meeting, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Hon. Enele Sosene Sopoaga said: “Climate change displacement and unplanned relocation are highly disruptive to livelihoods, culture and society and require proper, well-planned interventions to support people in their efforts to adapt to the challenges, particularly in securing access to decent livelihoods. Maintaining sovereignty, self-determination, cultural identity and territorial rights are of primary concern to Pacific Islanders in any form of climate change-related migration. The international response must also include adequate strategies to deal with persons displaced because of climate change, and their human rights must be protected.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Mr Christoph Wagner said: “It is clear that climate change, and the impact climate change has on the environment, will become an increasingly important driver of migration from rural to urban areas within Pacific island countries and to other countries. The European Union is supporting the PCCM project to help prepare our partner countries for migration. Those who are going to be leaving their countries, either temporarily or on a permanent basis, need assistance from their governments, Pacific regional organisations and development partners. We also want to help those Pacific island countries who are going to be receiving migrants to maximise the opportunities that the additional labour, expertise and experience can offer.”

Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat said: “The movement of people in the Pacific due to the effects of climate change is sadly a growing issue that needs our collective attention. The region must come together and work out a strategy for how to best ensure that the rights and wellbeing of our Pacific sisters and brothers who are facing displacement and relocation are protected and nurtured. This must include those who do not want to move”

The UN Resident Coordinator for the Pacific based in Fiji, Osnat Lubrani said the UN considers this complex issue requires greater attention in the context of the Pacific region’s journey to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The head of UNESCAP Pacific Office, Iosefa Maiava said that the need to address climate change and mobility issues is recognised in the newly-adopted Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) endorsed by Pacific leaders.

The regional meeting built on existing global and regional policy directions to promote alignment and coherence, including the FRDP, the Paris Agreement, the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM), the Samoa Pathway and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The meeting was a key activity of the PCCM project which aims to develop the capacity of Pacific Island countries to address the impacts of climate change on migration through well-managed, rights-based migration schemes and policy frameworks, supported by comprehensive research and knowledge building. The project assists its target countries of Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu to build knowledge through the collection and analysis of information; technical capacity development in increasing labour migration opportunities and collaboration on critical issues facing the region with in regard to climate induced migration.