Climate change, natural disasters and environmental degradation have always been main drivers of migration. Recent reports from the IPCC (2022), for instance, demonstrates that accelerated climate action in fighting and adapting to climate change impacts its critical to sustainable development, including the support to communities to limit the impacts associated with the environmental degradation that could lead to migration.

The concept of “environmental migration” was first recognised in 2018 in the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), placing this challenge as one of the priorities for migrants and States. At global level, in 2019, 24.9 million people were internally displaced due to 1900 environmental catastrophes that took place in the year. From that figure, 23.9 million people were displaced due to the catastrophes. In the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, between 2009 and 2017, over 20 million reported incidents of internal movements by individuals were accounted for in the context of environmental disasters.

It is in this context that partners in the Gran Chaco region in South America decided to address this phenomenon by asking the assistance and support from MIEUX+. Not as well-known as the Amazon rainforest, the Gran Chaco region is an ecological regional spread across the territories of four countries: Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. The ongoing Action mainly focuses on the first three countries. The region has the second biggest biodiversity and forest areas of the Americas continent, just after the Amazon rainforest and presents great environment diversity and a great variety of available resources.

From the inception to the implementation of the first MIEUX+ regional project

How to build synergies to address this common challenge? What are the main challenges at stake? Who are the target groups and how to consider the vulnerability of certain groups? How to replicate existing practices from Europe and the region whilst addressing to this phenomenon? These are some of the questions that the recently launched Action is going to address.

By bringing together 10 partners from various sectors (local and national authorities, civil society organisations, regional organisations and academia), the MIEUX+ team is working with a team of European, regional and local experts on the subject matter. Adopting a collaborative approach, experts and partners will work towards the same objective: analysing the environmental migration situation in the region in order to take informed actions, putting an emphasis on populations in situation of vulnerability such as indigenous communities and women and children.

The previous Action Ecuador II (2019 – 2020) provided support to local governments in Latin America and the Caribbean in addressing environmental migrations through peer-to-peer knowledge exchange. One of the main recommendations from the final report stated to “Generate, analyse and disseminate data related to migration and environmental degradation, with a focus on gender and other vulnerable populations”.

It was building from this recommendation, amongst others, that the Gran Chaco project was born. It has the ambition to create the space to collect and analyse data that could help authorities design and implement specific policies on how to make environmental migration visible as a specific socio-environmental phenomenon. By bringing together actors from Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia, the aim is to harmonise the efforts and find solutions that could work for most of the countries.

Another important aspect of this project, as well as for MIEUX+ in general, is the replication and deepening of practices, through combining a multidisciplinary approach between subnational authorities, NGOs, regional organisations, the academic world and local communities. Adapting and replicating practices is a way to strengthen existing tools and adapting it to different environments. This will be specifically important when working with groups in situation of vulnerability living in the Gran Chaco region such as indigenous communities.

How is the project going to benefit local communities?

This project places as its heart the populations living in the Gran Chaco region. The consequences of changes in the environment/ environment degradation particularly affect people in vulnerable situations, such as the indigenous communities, those working in agriculture and women. Women’s traditional social position in the family and in the community, combined with the fact that climate change affects factors essential to life (water, food, energy and other care), for which women are responsible for, mean that the impacts might be more severe for them. By adopting an intersectional approach and vision, the Gran Chaco Action will consider this phenomenon as multiple, leading the partners to adjust and adapt their practices according to the degree of vulnerability of the populations in questions.

Currently, 25 indigenous groups live in the region. Since the borders in the region are porous, local communities shift between the four countries. Indigenous displacement is not a recent phenomenon but the project will analyse whether these movements have been amplified with the recent climate disasters and extreme environmental events, which could put an extra pressure on the communities of the region, having their stability and livelihoods affected.

MIEUX+ is working with a team of European, regional and local experts that are going to support partners to define, refine and design public policies to contribute to an effective management of the migration initiated by environmental degradation. The project consortium includes researchers on environmental migrations, including representatives of the South American Network for Environmental Migrations (RESAMA) which is a pioneering initiative founded in 2010 for coordination and mobilisation of experts, researchers and practitioners to include the subject of environmental migration in public agendas in the region. In addition, the expert Giovanna Tipan was formerly in charge of developing and putting in application a policy on environmental migration in the Province of Pichincha in Ecuador. This local and practical expertise will certainly help partners and experts to consider practicalities when working on the recommendations for the region. Finally, yet importantly, the project counts with the support of experts and partners from the Argentinian, Bolivian and Paraguayan Chaco, who are bring their invaluable expertise and knowledge of the region and its dynamics into the project.

The diversity of partners involved in the project also allows a multidisciplinary approach when designing these policies and recommendations. Another important aspect of the project is to define a strategy on how to raise awareness, particularly to local communities.

Next steps and further information

Léa Monteillet and MIEUX+ experts joined the event “Dialogues for el Gran Chaco” organised by the Chaco Network (Redes Chaco) between 13 and 15 June 2022. The Action was officially launched during this conference that counted with the participation of representatives of the EU in the region, from international organisations as well as local communities. A roundtable organised on Tuesday 14 June kicked off the discussions that will serve as the starting point for the next deliverables: fact-finding report, regional diagnosis, a communication and awareness-raising strategy, recommendations for public policies and a monitoring tool of implementation follow up of public policies.

For further information about this topic and the region, we invite you all to consult the following links:

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