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International Partnerships

Preventing forced migration and adapting to a changing climate

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Climate change is influencing human mobility globally. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Pacific, where the long-term effects of sea-level rise and unpredictable weather patterns threaten the health, livelihoods and culture of millions. The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a country within the Pacific that faces intense exposure to the effects of climate change, due to its geographic and topographic makeup. For the islands, the threat of climate change is existential and is a threat that is already strongly felt by many of those residing there.

Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands – Photo credit: IOM

Increasingly, stronger high tides threaten the islands and recent droughts stress the Marshallese water supply. These droughts are increasing in intensity and frequency, with many water catchment areas found to have a high salinity rate: rendering them undrinkable. Moreover, the increasing in frequency and intensity of tropical storms, along with incremental sea level rises, could have catastrophic impacts on the country and its inhabitants.

Although the relationship between climate change and migration is complex, tied up in a set of factors that impact people’s need, ability and willingness to move, the effects of climate change – including sea-level rise and acceleration of environmental degradation – can influence people’s need or desire to move. By incorporating migration considerations into environment and climate change actions, we will be better equipped to conserve the habitability of our planet and protect people in the most vulnerable parts of the world.

We also want to stay here but if the effects of climate change continue we might end up leaving the island.
- Kathy, Teacher

Demonstrating how environment and climate change actions can take human mobility considerations into account, the EU-funded project implemented by IOM on 'Mainstreaming Migration into International Cooperation and Development' (MMICD project) developed a video that serves as both a training and outreach tool to showcase the #MigrationConnection. To reveal what this means in practice for people and communities, the video highlights an example of a project previously implemented by IOM called the Climate Adaptation, Disaster Risk Reduction and Education programme (CADRE).

The CADRE project provided classroom materials for schools to educate and increase the awareness amongst the islands’ young people about climate-change induced hazards and adaptation practices. These efforts led to the creation of a Youth Leadership Camp which now focuses on providing young people with the opportunity advocate for climate action and propose solutions to tackle local-level challenges witnessed in the community.

Carlon in front of sea wall
Carlon, a local student in front of a sea wall made of cars - Photo credit: IOM

Carlon is one of the students who participates in the Youth Leadership Camp and has been learning how to spread awareness about climate change throughout his community. Carlon knows that climate change is threatening the future of his country and joins those raising their voices to advocate for climate action to prevent forced migration. His group has proposed a project idea to ‘elevate not migrate’, which calls for the use new techniques to raise up the land to adapt to imminent sea level rise.

What would you feel like if you had to leave your land? Our language, our culture passed down by our ancestors would be forever lost here?
- Carlon, Student