Migration, Environment and Climate Change (MECC)

Migration, climate change and environment are interrelated. Just as environmental degradation and disasters can cause migration, movement of people can also entail significant effects on surrounding ecosystems. This complex nexus needs to be addressed in a holistic manner. In Nepal, the adverse impacts of climate change on livelihoods, food security and water availability are likely to exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and increase overall levels of migration in the coming decades. IOM works to address the need to integrate migration within the broader climate change framework in Nepal.

Assessing the Climate Change, Environmental Degradation and Migration Nexus in South Asia

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IOM Nepal implemented a joint project entitled “Assessing the Climate Change, Environmental Degradation and Migration Nexus in South Asia” with IOM Bangladesh and IOM Maldives in 2015 – 2016 with funding support from IOM Development Fund. The main project partners include International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and other relevant organizations at the regional level. At the national level, the IOM worked closely with relevant government ministry counterparts from the governments of Bangladesh, the Maldives and Nepal. South Asia, comprising 8 countries including Bangladesh, the Maldives and Nepal, is affected by a range of natural disasters. These disasters take a huge toll as they displace thousands of people every year.

To address the challenges encountered by South Asian countries, i.e. lack of evidence of the nexus and integrated environment-migration strategies alongside limited community resilience, this project carried out an assessment study, field research and national consultations in Bangladesh, the Maldives and Nepal, followed by a regional level dissemination meeting. The three countries have several commonalities including high rates of urbanization and international migration (though the Maldives is an exception as it witnesses net in-migration), while also being exposed to diverse climatic events.

Findings suggest that relationship between climate change and migration is complex and indirect, and decisions to migrate depend on a number of social, economic, environmental and political factors. Although at present, non-climatic factors (such as poverty, land ownership, and access to basic services, employment and household size) dominate the rational for migration in perception of those affected, climate change and environmental degradation already plan and important role and will gain importance in the decision making process for migration. All three countries have clearly acknowledged the need to develop policy instruments to address climate change at national, sub national and local level. Based on the findings from these three countries a regional strategy framework (covering areas such as enhanced data and research, improving awareness and understanding links between climate change, environment degradation and migration at regional level, capacity building and strengthening regional coordination) has been recommended to address migration related to climate change and environment degradation in line with commitments made at the regional level through South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Plan of Action and the Paris agreement at the global level.


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