The links between climate change, security, stability and development is a topic of growing interest and concern within the international community. It is widely acknowledged that climate and environmental change have the potential to cause multidimensional security and development risks, exacerbated by depleting natural resources, destroying traditional livelihoods, creating losses and damages or affecting migration or mobility patterns. The relationship between climate change and migration has also often been discussed through a security prism, whereby climate change on the one hand, or migration on the other, are seen as a threat to peace leading to increased securitization of these questions and creating further restrictions to mobility. Yet, existing evidence on the topic is inconclusive, and claims linking climate change, migration, security and conflict must be considered with extreme caution. Above all, the relationship between climate-related risks, migration, security and conflict is complex, intersects with political, social, economic and demographic factors and thus is mainly indirect and context-dependent.
IOM understands the links between migration, environment, and climate change through the wide lens of human security and is committed to putting vulnerable people at the center of its responses. As the 2030 Agenda recalls adopting a human security approach is crucial to achieve sustainable development, assessing the linkages between development, human rights and security dimensions is key. Food security, water security, environmental security and livelihood security are all affected by climate impacts and can influence mobility patterns. Environmental stresses might exacerbate pre-existing tensions, brought about by ethnic discrimination, socio-economic inequalities, and poor governance. Depending on the human security context, migration can be either a negative response to adverse climate impacts or an adaptation strategy. The combined effects of climate change and conflict also result in compounded risks for communities already under severe stress and could lead to protracted displacement and increased humanitarian needs. These situations call for longer-term development, adaptation and disaster risk reduction policies that strengthen the resilience of migrants and communities and ensure durable solutions.
- Examples of IOM’s activities
Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) Initiative
IOM supports the inclusion of migrants and displaced persons in disaster risk reduction efforts, taking into account the specific vulnerabilities that these groups face and the fact that they are too often unaccounted for when disaster strikes. This multi-stakeholder initiative produced the “Guidelines to Protect Migrants in Countries Experiencing Conflict or Natural Disaster”.
IOM’s Transhumance Tracking Tool (TTT)
Through its transition and recovery programmes, IOM supports a local conflict mitigation approach, and has developed data collection tools aiming at better understanding transhumance and supporting local pre-emptive responses. In this context, IOM cooperates with the Réseau Billital Maroobé, the regional herders’ federation of pastoralist associations of West and Central Africa, for the roll-out of an early warning “Transhumance Tracking Tool”. This tool is composed of two main data collection mechanisms:
1. A “flow registry”, a data collection tool used in the location of key seasonal transhumant movements.
2. An early warning system, a localized alert system that uses large networks of existing key informants to share and receive information related to transhumance events.
Enhancing protection and empowerment of migrants and communities affected by climate change and disasters in the Pacific region (PCCMHS)
This regional programme seeks to protect and empower communities adversely affected by climate change and disasters in the Pacific region. A key component is to support a regional human security-based response on climate change-related displacement, migration, and planned relocation by facilitating an appropriate framework. The programme also empowers communities affected by climate change through training and skills development activities to increase access to labour mobility schemes, and pre-departure orientation to support migrants to migrate safely with an understanding of their rights. The programme also increases the capacity of government and non-government stakeholders to promote labour mobility that is safe, regular, and inclusive. Led by IOM, this regional programme is funded by the UN Trust Fund for Human Security, in partnerships with United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), International Labour Organization (ILO), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD).
Regional Programme on Mobility, Climate Change and Water Scarcity
IOM, in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), plans to conduct regional research focusing on Libya and Sudan as case studies to assess how factors including migration, climate change, environmental degradation, water scarcity and conflict interact and influence community resilience against climate and conflict shocks. The project’s findings will provide IOM, partners and Governments with the knowledge and tools to design and implement interventions that support community and Government efforts to strengthen resilience against future shocks.
Breaking the climate-conflict cycle in Galmudug, Somalia
The primary focus of the IOM-EU project is on reducing environmental induced displacement and conflict in Galmudug State through tangible investments in physical water infrastructure and pragmatic innovations for water and energy capture in the agropastoral sector. This support will be channelled by harnessing the most relevant and locally appropriate social structures, bolstering local informal and formal institutions that support inclusive resource management. IOM will promote community-driven solutions aimed at mitigating natural hazards and environmental degradation with a particular focus on investments in water access and management.
Strengthening the Role of Women in Peace Building through Community-Level Natural Resources Management
Yemen’s ongoing conflict has stretched existing mechanisms and overwhelmed traditional non-formal actors, such as community leaders. The FAO and IOM partnered, with support from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), to implement a series of interventions to strengthen community-level peace building capacities through natural resources management in Sana’a and Lahj governorates in Yemen. The project was implemented from January 2018 to May 2019 and aimed to reduce conflict over land and water, while also enhancing social cohesion through improving livelihoods and increasing the role of women in natural resource management and conflict resolution mechanisms. The project rehabilitated community irrigation water infrastructure, increasing protection against recurrent floods, which often damaged neighbouring houses and contributed to conflict between the farmers and local residents that use the floodwater or irrigation.
Assessment of Effects of Drought and Climate Change on Livelihood Support Mechanisms among Pastoralist and Mobile Communities in Pastoralist Regions including North Eastern and Rift Valley Province
IOM supports the nomadic pastoralist communities to protect traditional transhumance routes in the face of droughts, localized intergroup resource conflict and other obstacles to mobility (including within national borders). In the whole Sahel area, and specifically in north and north-east Kenya (an area impacted by droughts and variability of precipitations), IOM is promoting comprehensive support to pastoralist communities, which have been negatively impacted by recurrent drought and erratic rainfall. Many of these communities have been put under additional strain by large refugee influxes from Somalia (notably following the 2011 drought). In partnership with FAO, UNEP, the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) and OCHA, IOM has provided extensive support to these communities to preserve their traditional mobility-based livelihood model (cattle herding) while also promoting income diversification to mitigate risk.
The Climate Security in the Pacific project represents the first multi-country initiative of its kind in the region and proposes concrete assessment and actions at all levels to tackle climate-related security risks. Focusing on empowering low-lying atoll nations, in particular Tuvalu, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, the project addresses the security threats linked to climate change by strengthening the understanding, implementation and coordination of risk management strategies for key climate-related security risks.
- Key Initiatives
IOM is part of the UN Community of Practice (CoP) on Climate and Security, established by the Climate Security Mechanism (CSM). The CoP brings together representatives from more than 30 UN entities with a shared interest in understanding and addressing climate-related security risks to exchange knowledge, share experiences, and identify opportunities for cooperation.
IOM is part of the global Task Force on Migration, Environmental Change and Conflict, convened by the IUCN CEESP Theme on Environment and Peace. The Task force is a multi-stakeholder and interdisciplinary group of practitioners, policymakers and researchers, to critically assess and synthesize existing information and identify knowledge gaps around the interlinkages between environmental change, human and species migration, and violent conflict in order to support practitioners and decision-makers in addressing drivers and impacts through nature-based or other solutions. As part of these efforts, IOM contributed to the IUCN CEESP report “Planet on the Move – The Role of Conservation at the Intersection of Migration, Conflict and Environmental Change” (forthcoming) and participated to a launch session at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2020 (held in September 2021).
IOM is involved in the Geneva Dialogue on Environment, Climate Conflict and Peace, convened by the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform. The initiative aims to foster inter-institutional collaboration and dialogue, promotes shared learning and innovation, and mainstream these topics across the board between the environment, climate, conservation, conflict, security and peace sectors. As part of these efforts, IOM contributed, together with partners, to the White Paper on the Future of Environmental Peacebuilding and will organize a roundtable discussion on human mobility and peacebuilding at the second International Conference on Environmental Peacebuilding (2-4 February 2022).
The UN Regional Working Group on Climate Change, Environment, Security and Development in West Africa (UN-CCEDS) was launched by the Regional Office in West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), in coordination with IOM, UNEP and the UNFCCC, to encourage UN information-sharing and cross-pillar coordination to reduce the adverse effects of climate change and environmental degradation on human security and address the impacts of these phenomena on mobility and peace in the ECOWAS region.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is working with FAO and IOM to promote the peaceful settlement of farmer‑herder conflicts. Through conflict prevention and community stabilization activities, including cross-border projects.
- IOM Publications
IOM Indiana University UNEP ICPAC (2022) Assessing the Link Between Climate Migration Conflict and Violence in IGAD States
IOM, IISD, World bank, IUCN Task Force on Environmental change, migration and conflict, IISD (2022): Addressing the Silent Crises: The impact of slow-onset environmental change on human mobility and conflict for the White Paper on the Future of Environmental Peacebuilding, an initiative led by the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform
IOM (2019): Migration and Water in the Middle East and North Africa
IOM, WFP (2016): Hunger Without Borders, The hidden links between Food Insecurity, Violence and Migration in the Northern Triangle of Central America (2016). Hunger Without Borders, The hidden links between Food Insecurity, Violence and Migration in the Northern Triangle of Central America (2016).
IOM (2011): Climate change, migration and critical international security considerations (2011). Robert McLeman. IOM Migration Research Series 42.
- Other relevant publications
ODI Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) (2023): Living with climate change, conflict and displacement: recognising agency, voice, mobility, language and linkages
Climate Security Mechanism (2021): Progress Report
Geneva Peacebuilding Platform (2021): Stocktaking report: Geneva Dialogue on Environment, Climate, Conflict, and Peace (ECCP)
UNEP, IOM, OCHA, CILSS (2011): Livelihood security: Climate change, migration and conflict in the Sahel
- Relevant Events
PeaceCon@10 – Covid, Climate, and Conflict: Rising to the Challenges of a Disrupted World
26-28 January 2022
2nd International Conference on Environmental Peacebuilding, Geneva, Switzerland
2-4 February 2022
Munich Security Conference
18-20 February 2022
Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development
March 2022 (exact dates TBC)
Fragility Forum 2022: Development & Peace in Uncertain Times
7-18 March 2022