Migration and Oceans

2017 is the “Year of Oceans” and there are calls for 2021-2030 to be considered the International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Oceans contribute to sustainable development and sustainable ocean-based economies, including poverty eradication, food security, livelihoods and decent work. Yet, the impacts of climate change are threatening the oceans, by contributing to rising the sea levels and exacerbating ocean acidification and coastal erosion, bleaching of coral reefs, and increasing global water temperatures. All these impacts are detrimental to affected communities and individuals’ livelihoods, wellbeing, health, safety and food security.

These dimensions are linked to the migration of people – whether forced or voluntary – as they can have direct and indirect impacts on the decision and/or the necessity to migrate. Taking into account migration issues in the ocean debate allows to look at the social and human consequences and place the people at the center of the discussions.

After COP 21 in Paris in 2015, IOM initiated analytical work on maritime ecosystems degradation and their impacts on livelihoods - and subsequently on migration - through an innovative partnership with the French -based Ocean and Climate Platform. This was followed by common action at COP 22 in 2016 in Marrakech during the Oceans Action Day. IOM’s work encompasses general issues related to sea level rise and impacts on coastal areas but also pays special attention to the situation of Small Island Developing States.

IOM and the Ocean and Climate Platform have been working together since 2016 to combine efforts and respective expertise to address the ocean, climate and human migration nexus.
This innovative partnership has three key objectives: 1) improve the knowledge base on this topic; 2) raise political awareness and encourage action to address these issues at the global, regional and national levels; and 3) develop concrete long term programmes to support affected populations.

IOM is also a member of the  Global Climate Alliance. The launch of the Ocean and Climate Initiatives Alliance took place at the UNESCO Headquarters in March 2017 in Paris. This initiative seeks to drive momentum for concrete action and solutions and federate existing initiatives on issues related to climate and ocean.