Climate migration and the politics of causal attribution: a case study in Mongolia

Benoît Mayer
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Migration is always multi-causal. Ascribing a specific cause to migration, such as through the concept of ‘climate migration’, participates consequently to a political exercise – a play of shade and light where attention is focused on the responsibilities of certain actors, rather than others. This is the case, this article argues, regarding internal migration in Mongolia, whereby, during the last two decades, nomadic or semi-nomadic herders as well as inhabitants from small urban centres come to settle in insalubrious suburbs of the capital, Ulaanbaatar. The Mongolian authorities are keen to highlight the changing environmental conditions that can be traced to climate change: a change in precipitation patterns and an increase in average temperatures contribute to cause large loss of livestock during harsh winters (dzud). Yet, a multitude of other factors concurrently influence the migratory behaviour of Mongolia’s nomads: unregulated and unsustainable pastoral practices, the insufficient provision of basic and support services in the countryside or, more generally, the lack of public support to the agricultural sector. Identifying the concurring causes of migration suggests alternative response measures, and this article argues that Mongolia should urgently rectify its development policies to provide a room for each of its citizens.

Migration and Development
DOI: 10.1080/21632324.2015.1022971

Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group