Addressing Human Mobility in a Changing Climate in Mountain Areas of the Kyrgyz Republic

The labor migration acts as a strategy to minimize risks in conditions of high uncertainty around agricultural income but does not automatically generate sustainable agriculture practices. Photograph by Victor Lacken

Mountainous areas worldwide are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Average global warming of 1.5ºC (2.7ºF) and above is projected to have devastating impacts on mountain systems, including glacier retreat, increase in hazard risk, and loss of biodiversity. However, in comparison to Small Island Developing States, mountain countries have not managed to develop collective advocacy efforts that catch the attention of global policymakers and donors.  

Kyrgyzstan is considered one of the most hazard-prone countries in Central Asia. Available data suggest that natural hazards cause major economic losses in these countries, with costs between 0.5 and 1.3 per cent of annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Rising temperatures, changing hydrology conditions, and the frequency of extreme weather events associated with climate change will exacerbate Kyrgyzstan’s vulnerability and reduce the ability to manage extreme events unless the appropriate adaptation measures are put in place. Having appropriate adaptation measures are especially critical for Kyrgyzstan, as over half of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP is derived from climate and weather-sensitive activities. Drought is a common occurrence in the country as are land and mudslides, avalanches, squalls, downpours, icing, frost, the breakthrough of glacial lakes, floods, the rise of sub-soil waters, river erosion, earthquakes, pests, and crop diseases. On average, destruction and loss from disasters due to natural hazards total up to USD $30-35 million per year.

Climate change and migration are closely interlinked issues in Kyrgyzstan. Over the last few decades, the country has witnessed several waves of rampant migration outflows, accounting for more than 1 million of its citizens who have migrated on a temporary or permanent basis. This represents up to 20 percent of the economically active population in Kyrgyzstan, most of whom are young people aged 15-29 (60 per cent). Kyrgyzstan is considered a lower-middle-income country, with remittances making up 30 per cent of the country’s GDP and are often spent on basic needs and real estate. As the recent IOM research demonstrates, internal migrants who move mainly from rural areas to Bishkek and cities in Chui province make up more than 18 per cent of the country’s population. The scale of internal climate migration is projected to increase by 2050. The World Bank estimates that by 2050, up to 200,000 people, or 3.9 per cent of the population of Kyrgyzstan, could become internal climate migrants (World Bank Groundswell Report 2). However, in Kyrgyzstan, the evidence on the impacts of climate change on population movements do not exist consistently on a local scale.

In this light, IOM has launched a project titled Addressing Human Mobility in a Changing Climate in Mountain Areas of the Kyrgyz Republic to strengthen the evidence base on human mobility in the contexts of disasters, environmental degradation, and climate change in mountain areas, with special attention to high mountains. T To obtain such data, IOM missions in Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan has planned to implement a study in multiple contexts, which requires a tool to capture information from multiple scenarios and facilitate a comparative analysis. In Kyrgyzstan, IOM and implementing partners aim to implement a longitudinal/ panel study in the country in cooperation with relevant national stakeholders and increase their capacity on addressing migration and climate change issues.

Activities planned within the project:

  • Generate evidence on human mobility in the context of climate change with a special focus on mountain areas in Kyrgyzstan.
  • Undertake capacity development to support the longitudinal/panel study on human mobility in the context of climate change in the mountains for selected national stakeholders in Kyrgyzstan.
  • Organize a capacity development workshop on Migration, Environment, and Climate Change and Migration Data for national stakeholders.
  • Develop a reporting template on human mobility in the context of climate change in Kyrgyzstan for relevant global policy frameworks in consultation with the relevant national strategic partners.

Proposed interventions within the Asia Regional Migration Program, phase 12, funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Office of Population, and International Migration are aligned with the newly adopted Concept of the Migration Policy 2021-2030. The Concept aims to increase efforts of the government of Kyrgyzstan towards medium- and long-term changes in migration processes and outcomes and highlights the necessity to stabilize and streamline migration processes in sectoral policies through engagement with migrants, diaspora, and compatriots living abroad.

This news was initially published here.

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