Countries in the Americas and the Caribbean present some of the highest levels of vulnerability in the world to the adverse impacts of climate change. At the same time, the region presents a wide diversity of ecosystems, notably including Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean and low lying coastal areas, high mountain regions especially in the Andes, the largest tropical rainforest in the world in the Amazon, expanding across multiple countries of South America, areas affected by land degradation and desertification process across Central and North America and global warming-affected polar communities.
Many instances of human mobility responding to the adverse drivers of climate change and natural hazards have been recorded in the region. Disaster displacement responds to the occurrence of many diverse hazards, ranging from tropical storms in the Caribbean to wildfires in the United States and the Amazon and floods across the continent. More voluntary forms of migration are harder to attribute to environmental drivers, but available evidence points to the influence of these factors in internal and international mobility. Planned relocation occurs regularly throughout the region, yet knowledge management in this area is weaker and more information is required to better understand how these processes take place. The issue of immobility remains a concern as populations may be trapped in highly exposed areas with limited capacity to move and escape the impact of sudden or slow onset hazards.
Policymaking has greatly advanced in recent years to address the migration, environment and climate change nexus. At the regional level, existing regional processes in the Americas – including the Regional Conference on Migration, the South American Conference on Migration, and the nascent Caribbean Migration Consultations – have incorporated the topic in their area of work. Simultaneously, countries in the Americas have also progressively integrated environmental migration in their instruments, including from a migration perspective (Bolivia and Haiti for instance), in climate change strategies (Peru, Honduras) and disaster risk reduction processes (Mexico, Colombia). IOM’s intervention in the continent is geared towards assisting government and regional entities in enhancing their action on the migration, environment and climate change nexus notably through the development of adequate evidence and information, support to policymaking processes and building capacities in the thematic area.
Regional Office for Central and North America and the Caribbean, San José, Costa Rica, [email protected], @oimcentroamer