Osnat Lubrani: Address at the launch of the Enhancing the Capacity of Pacific Island Countries to Deal with the Impacts of Climate Change on Migration Project

14 Nov 2013

EU Funded Project: Enhancing the Capacity of Pacific Island Countries to Deal with the Impacts of Climate Change on Migration

Pacific Heads of Missions, senior government officials, CROP agencies and development partners, we are grateful to Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s (SPC's) Director-General, Dr Jimmie Rodgers, for allowing us this time during the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA) to launch the European Union (EU) funded “Enhancing the capacity of Pacific Island Countries to Deal with the Impacts of Climate change on Migration” project.

I would especially like to extend my warm gratitude to the European Union for funding this important and timely initiative.

As the UN Resident Coordinator, I am particularly pleased that three UN agencies, ESCAP, ILO and UNDP are cooperating on this project and will bring their skill and expertise from each of their organizations for implementation.

It was only 3 years ago at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 16th Conference of Parties (COP) in Cancun that for the first time an internationally agreed climate policy considered climate induced migration, displacement and planned relocation. As such, this is an emerging issue on the global scale, but we can say that this has been something the Pacific has been dealing with for many years.
In September, the leaders of the Pacific produced the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership which states: “Climate change has arrived. It is the greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific and one of the greatest challenges for the entire world… We call on our partners to enhance, accelerate and ensure the effective delivery of their support for the design and implementation of the commitments of the Pacific small island developing States.”

The Pacific is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world. Extreme weather events in the region since 1950 have affected millions of people. It has caused thousands of reported fatalities and cost an estimated US$3.2 billion in damage. This is growing evidence that women are disproportionately more heavily affected. Climate change also has slow onset consequences including contamination of ground water and ocean acidification. Many of these effects will have important implications for population mobility in the region.

Migration has long been a response to changing conditions in the Pacific. Today, of all world regions, the Pacific has the highest per capita level of international mobility amongst its resident populations. Remittances and the transfer of skill and knowledge to the Pacific region through migration have an important development benefit for the region.

There is no doubt that climate change will impact on the current drivers of migration. How, when and where is however less clear and requires further research and analysis. It is important to recognize that Pacific governments can harness migration, including temporary migration, which can help households to diversify their incomes and improve resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Migration can also be further harnessed as an instrument for development, and for regional stability – alleviating unemployment particularly, in parts of the Pacific that are currently experiencing rapid population growth.

Governments have a critical role to play in ensuring that migration pathways are available, that they protect the rights of workers, and enhance development in the communities with the added dimension of climate change, the importance of developing such pathways is very timely.

This joint ESCAP, ILO and UNDP project is an initiative to help Pacific Island countries to address the emerging issue of climate change and migration. It reflects a collective endeavor to harness the comparative advantage of the UN system in the Pacific to support member States on a complex issue that is already presenting dilemmas to governments and communities.  I would like to emphasize that this project will not be working in isolation. We look forward to working with the many stakeholders involved in this work in the Pacific region, including SPREP , USP, SPC and others.

Thank you again to SPC for the opportunity to launch this project during the CRGA.