Moving as adaptation



This infographic outlines the opportunities and the social and economic costs which migrants and communities back home face, which determine the success of moving as adaptation. For those who leave, migration can open many opportunities in terms of income diversification, access to more stable and better-paid jobs or to education. Migration can help develop new networks, gain new competences or diversify skills, such as language or technical skills, and benefit from exposure to new cultures and different ways of thinking. Migration empowers people and their families and communities, who are able to benefit from new skills and knowledge gained through the migration experience. Migration can modify gender roles and empower women who gain increased decision-making power in the household and in the community when men are away, or who achieve economic independence through migration. For those who stay, migration of relatives can help diversify incomes and contribute to local development and improvement of living conditions through remittances and skills transfers, or diasporas' investments, which in turn can reinforce local resilience to environmental stress.

Yet, migration can also be a painful experience, as it usually begins with a disruption of social ties, habits and lifestyle. Migration is expensive, and often requires selling key assets, spending hard-earned savings, or taking loans, which need to be repaid. The migration process itself can be associated with many physical risks, particularly in the absence of safe legal channels for migration, which can encourage people to resort to the help of traffickers. Oftentimes, the conditions that migrants, particularly those with fewer means, face in the areas of destination are very poor, and do not meet basic standards. Migrants are thus often exposed to poverty, and may end up living in insecure, hazard-prone areas. Migrants are not always welcome in the areas of destination: xenophobia and discrimination can lead to isolation, and hard working and living conditions may result in severe health and psychological problems, and increased emotional and physical vulnerability. For those who are left behind, out-migration can also be synonymous with brain-drain, increased insecurity, and disruption of social and family ties.

Several factors play a role in determining whether migration as an adaptation strategy to climate and environmental change will have positive or negative outcomes.

In the case of both international and internal migration, adequate migration laws and policies that facilitate migration as adaptation and protect human rights, favorable working conditions and economic incentives in the areas of destination as well as organized social networks of support are some of the most influential factors in determining the success of migratory processes

On the contrary, restrictive immigration laws, inadequate infrastructures and welfare systems, lack of support away from home and poor working conditions can translate into great social and economic costs both for migrants and for their family and community. 


2014      Outlook on Migration, Development and Climate Change, International Organization for Migration (IOM), Geneva.

Masika, R.
2002      Editorial. Gender and Development, 10(2):2–9.

Jolly, S. and H. Reeves 
2005      Gender and Migration: Overview Report. BRIDGE Development – Gender, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton. 

Warner, K. et al.
2014      Integrating Human Mobility Issues within National Adaptation Plans. Policy Brief No. 9, United Nations University Institute of Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), Bonn.