Over the past three months, the joint-agency Pacific Climate Change Migration and Human Security (PCCMHS) programme has hosted a series of six regional policy dialogues with senior government officials from across the Pacific region. In coordination with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the discussions provided an opportunity for Pacific countries to review the human security implications of climate change and mobility, discuss relevant global, regional and national initiatives and examine different options for the region to ensure the protection of climate related migrants.
Pacific communities have been affected by a range of sudden-onset and slow-onset hazards that are made more intense and accelerated by climate change. It is not uncommon to hear stories of how families, communities and villages must move due to the impacts caused by rising sea levels, ocean acidification, coastal erosion, temperature and changes to rainfall variability and El Niño and La Niña climate patterns.
The PCCMHS regional policy dialogue provided an opportunity for the participating countries to initiate discussions on a regional process in support of responses to climate change-related migration, displacement and planned relocation.
This reality led Hon. Simon Kofe, Minister of Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs, Tuvalu to state that “Every nation must take ownership of and responsibility for climate-change-related issues... Developing a regional framework to respond to climate change and disaster-related migration, displacement, and planned relocation can enhance our regional advocacy at the international level, boost the Pacific’s role as leaders in battling the world climate crisis, and encourage all nations to do their part in resolving this crisis.”
The first of the six regional webinars commenced in September and set the scene in providing an introduction to the objectives of the regional policy dialogue. This was subsequently followed by webinars two and three that focused on country perspectives on current mobility trends, existing challenges as well as the relevant national policies.
Session four reviewed existing regional and global policy processes that address climate change related displacement, migration and planned relocation.
In session five, discussions highlighted legal and policy gaps that needed to be addressed to enable for the proper protection of Pacific communities most prone to the impacts of climate change.
The sixth and final webinar concluded in November and focused on framing a potential Pacific regional response and identifying next steps for the development of the regional response to enhance the protection and empowerment of migrants and communities adversely affected by climate change and disasters in the Pacific region.
During the webinar sessions, government representatives had the benefit of receiving and considering a comprehensive set of key messages prepared by PCCMHS’s technical advisory group – comprising of experts from across the Pacific region in multiple sectors related to cross-cutting areas of climate migration, as well as from implementing partners including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Labour Organization, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Platform on Disaster Displacement.
“I am pleased with the approach taken by the Pacific Climate Change Migration and Human Security programme which puts Members [Countries] at the centre of this policy dialogue consultation. This engagement would assist partners to frame the best regional response to progress this work during such unprecedented times, said Dr. Filimon Manoni, Deputy Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum.
“The Pacific region has the opportunity to show the rest of the world how it’s done by continuing the conversation on the need to develop a regional response that focusses on protecting the interests and rights of our future generations, so that they can choose to stay where they are, move in anticipation of harm or if they are displaced,” said Mr. Solomon Kantha, IOM Chief of Mission in Fiji.
Discussions on climate mobility will gain further momentum in 2021 as the PCCMHS programme looks to support national and regional consultations in the Pacific region. The PCCMHS programme will review the outcomes of these consultations face to face in Suva to inform a regional framework that respects national policies, strategies and narratives while promoting recognition and the legal protection of migrants and displaced persons particularly in the context of climate change.
For more information contact
Ly Ngo, Associate Programme Officer, ESCAP Subregional Office for the Pacific. Email: [email protected]
Sabira Coelho, Programme Manager, Pacific Climate Change Migration and Human Security Programme at IOM Fiji. Email: [email protected]
Christopher Yee, Programme Specialist at IOM Fiiji. Email: [email protected]