Address climate change induced migration

Sanusi Tejan Savage

What you need to know:

  •  As we reflect on dangers of climate change, we should not forget its link to forced migration. While migration has long been a result of different factors, including social- cultural- economic, diseases, conflict, and opportunities, in the recent past, we have witnessed a growing phenomenon of climate and environment changes impacting upon migration that has often resulted in forced migration.  

From November 1 to 12, the world’s attention is on Glasgow, Scotland, as leaders, environmental experts, activists and other partners again take aim to save our increasingly warming planet.

 Delegates at the 2021 Conference of Parties (COP 26) summit are pushing for accelerated action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) — to both of which Uganda is a signatory. The Paris Agreement is a legally-binding international treaty adopted by 192 Parties on December 12, 2015, aiming to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. 

 As we reflect on dangers of climate change, we should not forget its link to forced migration. While migration has long been a result of different factors, including social- cultural- economic, diseases, conflict, and opportunities, in the recent past, we have witnessed a growing phenomenon of climate and environment changes impacting upon migration that has often resulted in forced migration.  

As an observer at COP since 2007, IOM at COP 26 will focus on bringing visibility to the climate migration nexus and ensuring that MECC is central to the climate change negotiations at Glasgow. We will call on both national governments and the international community to commit to the urgency of addressing human mobility linked to climate hazards. 

 From the devastating landslides in Mt Elgon, prolonged drought in the Karamoja region to the extreme floods in Katakwi, climate change is a significant contributing factor to human migration in Uganda. Affected communities have suffered great loss and damage to their property and livelihood and experienced large-scale displacement resulting in their permanent resettlement in new areas. 

 Beyond COP26, let’s aim to include human mobility across all the key pillars of the Paris Agreement, including supporting progressive management of displacement linked to climate change. 

 The Government of Uganda has made notable efforts to strengthen its response to climate change, including passing the 2021 National Climate Change Act and the National Environment Management Act, 1998. However, there is still need for strengthened support to the government to effectively address human migration linked to climate change in Uganda. 

Internationally, there has been due recognition of climate-induced migration and displacement in major decisions, including at COP 21 during the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. This agreement encourages states to respect, promote, and consider the rights of migrants when taking action to address climate change. Yet there is still no specific, legally-binding treaty on the unique needs of migrants affected by climate change. 

Meeting the needs of migrants, including displaced persons, and their communities are at the center of our work on migration, environment, and climate change. 

COP26 therefore presents us with the opportunity to strengthen partnership with the government of Uganda and the international community to develop solutions for people to move and migrate in the context of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters due to natural hazards; assist and protect migrants and displaced persons on the move in the context of climate change, environmental degradation, and disasters due to natural hazards, and to make migration a choice for people to stay by building resilience and addressing the adverse climatic and environmental drivers that compel people to move. 

 Within the UN system, we will play a convening role on climate migration to provide technical and assistance support to the government of Uganda and other stakeholder to undertake research and engage institutional and operational partners to ensure migration linked to climate change is addressed. 

IOM reaffirms its support to the Government of Uganda, civil society, migrants, and other stakeholders to provide migration policy advice, strengthen capacities and develop approaches that are migrant centered and inclusive, to address human mobility challenges and seize any related opportunities. 

We will continue to strengthen our support to the people most vulnerable to climate change impacts and facilitate their access to significantly scaled-up sustainable and predictable finance. 

Sanusi Tejan Savage is Chief of Mission, International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Uganda.

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