High Level Segment of the Sixteenth Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development

Date Publish: 
Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 16:00
Luca Dall'Oglio, Permanent Observer to the United Nations

Mr. Chairman,

Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) appreciates
the opportunity to participate in this session on "The Way Forward"
to review sustainable development issues as they relate to
environmentally-induced migration and its relation with the themes
of this Commission on agriculture, rural development, land,
drought, desertification and Africa.

Among the many challenges of sustainable development, both
gradual climate change (climate processes) and sudden natural
disasters (climate events) are exposing to risks and to new
vulnerabilities an increasing number of inhabitants, particularly
indigenous peoples, of coastal regions, low lying islands, and
areas susceptible to drought, and may force them to move to safer
areas.  The degradation of land in arid, semi arid and dry
sub-humid areas further induces environmental migration. While no
consensus exists whether or not migration can be considered as a
way of adaptation or as a failure of adaptation strategies , it is
often a survival mechanism for those affected.

To advance a better understanding of the relationship amongst
climate change, development and migration, IOM in collaboration
with partners has undertaken a number of recent initiatives:

  • In cooperation with UNFPA, an expert workshop was organized
    last spring in Bangkok on Migration and the Environment. The
    workshop investigated the two-way association between migration and
    environmental change. While migration can lead to conflict over
    scarce resources, such as water, farmland and timber –
    environmental degradation can lead to scarcity of resources and
    ignite conflict;
  • Together with the Government of Greece in its Chairmanship of
    the Human Security Network, IOM organized a conference earlier this
    year to discuss the most promising practices and pertinent lessons
    learned in forging multi-stakeholder cooperation at national,
    bilateral, regional and global levels to address the human security
    implications of environmental degradation, climate change and
    migration. Key amongst the findings were that climate change has an
    aggravating effect on the majority of human security and
    development challenges;
  • Just two weeks ago, IOM in partnership with the United Nations
    University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS),
    UNEP and other partners organized a Research Workshop on Migration
    and the Environment.  Thirty-five experts in the field of
    migration and the environment discussed the way forward and agreed
    on the need for an interdisciplinary research programme, which
    would examine the links between both gradual environmental change
    and migration, and extreme environmental events and migration.
  • Finally Mr. Chairman, as part of the Migration and Development
    Series jointly organized with UNITAR, UNFPA and the MacArthur
    Foundation, an expert group meeting and seminar on Climate Change,
    Environmental Degradation and Migration was held last week to
    promote dialogue between academia, practitioners and the New York
    diplomatic community on these critical topics.

These initial research activities and policy discussions clearly
indicates that while migration itself is not a new response to
climate change or environmental degradation, much can be gained by
considering migration in mitigation and adaptation scenarios. 
Gradual environmental changes such as drought and desertification
appear to be a less obvious push factor for migration than extreme
environmental events; however they displace a larger population in
the longer term.  With this displacement occurring more often
internally rather than internationally, national development
strategies could focus on how migration can be an adaptation
strategy and make positive contributions towards development. 
While all countries are at risk, developing countries are more
vulnerable, given that they have far less resources and capacities
at their disposal to cope with and adapt to climate change and
environmental degradation.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the relationship between migration
and environment will have implications in every State, but will
certainly affect some countries more due to their geography or
level of development. Because this problem is anticipated only to
worsen, it must be addressed in an immediate and effective

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.