Cotonou: Migration and Environment

Group photo Cotonou

The joint EU- ICMPD Migration EU eXpertise Initiative (MIEUX) gathered 20 participants, composed of a mix of partner authorities, experts and MIEUX staff, for a two-day workshop in Cotonou, Benin about Migration and Environment. The event is the last of a series of activities executed after the request from the Ministry of Environment of Benin, the Office of Secretary of State of Guinea-Bissau and Ministry of Planning, Development and Land Use of Togo back in 2015.

What is the relevance of this workshop?

West Africa is the most mobile region in the world accounting for 58% of global migration flows and one of the most vulnerable regions for climate change due to multiple delta regions and island states. This makes it an important region to study links between migration and climate change, as explained by Dr. Carolyn Zikgraf, the expert deployed on this Action. Sea level rise, soil salinization, floods, drought, desertification, wind intensification, and heat waves are just some of the many environmental changes that affect local livelihoods, threaten food security and an increasing number of people to move to and within West Africa, including a significant volume of internal displacements and cross-border movements.

 As environmental degradation in the region is expected to continue with global warming, it seems essential to implement frameworks and policies that target the link between migration, the environment and climate change at local, national and regional levels and more specifically, the potential adaptation role migration plays for persons displaced by natural catastrophes.

 National and multi-country initiatives

 The workshop furthers the aims of the Action to contribute to developing a regional dialogue on migration, climate change, and environmental issues among West African countries. Hailing from Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, the delegates shared several initiatives carried out at a national level during the past two years. Bangladeshi MIEUX Expert Sheikh Moinul Islam Moin Senior Assistant Chief of the Planning Commission also shared his government’s practices in dealing with climate change.

Bangladesh: Bangladesh is among the top-5 most vulnerable countries to climate change. A growing awareness of the devastating effects upon local population and the potential for mass-scale displacement has prompted multi-level coordinated government action, specifically in the area of disaster preparedness. Concrete initiatives include the formulation of a “Disaster Calendar” that maps month by month the risk of disaster according to a stoplight system, allowing all government agencies and services to be prepared if disaster strikes.

Benin: Led by an overall vision of Benin as a climate-change resistant, carbon-free country by 2030, the Government’s strategy aims to contribute to sustainable development by mainstreaming climate and migration-related issues into operational and strategic national planning.

Burkina Faso: the Government is placing great emphasis on Sustainable Land Management (SLM) in order to secure sufficient and sustainable agricultural production and to avoid adverse environmental effects, ultimately reversing land degradation. The Government has defined national targets to achieve by 2030, weaving other targets and strategies related to climate adaptation and rural living, notably by creating a network of 2000 Eco-Villages from 2018 onwards.

Multi-country: the 3S Initiative, co-chaired by Senegal and Morocco and managed by a Task Force of 12 African countries, was launched in 2016 during COP22 and aims to address the major environmental causes causing instability and insecurity related to climate change and land degradation in Africa, creating two million jobs and rehabilitating 10 million hectares of degraded land by 2025.

Recommendations and opportunities

In line with the suggestions included in the MIEUX Regional Factsheet on West Africa, this workshop has emphasised the need to think regionally when trying to develop migration governance. Two days’ worth of discussions yielded a number of interesting recommendations listed below:

Data Collection: participants deemed it necessary and of utmost importance to create a common model for a future West African survey that would measure the links between displacement, climate, and environmental changes in order to contribute "hard data" to the formulation of evidence-based public policies, strategies and action plans.

Funding: the link between migration and climate change is still not fully understood in all its complexity, partly due to the lack of data, and this hinders the ability of States to cooperate with international donors as these issues are yet mainstreamed across funding priorities. It is, therefore, necessary to increase funding opportunities by raising awareness among international donors of the importance of climate change and its important links to forced migration.

National Strategies: creativity and resilience define the approach that West African States have taken towards dealing with environmental degradation, climate-induced migration and displacement. Regional –level agreements such as the Kampala Convention coupled with mechanisms that promote the exchange of knowledge and practices such as MIEUX, can facilitate the scaling up of regional and intra-regional dialogues to share, and potentially replicate, the good practices that already exist at the individual country level.

Coordination: at a national level, focal points should be designated in each country and made easily accessible to external actors who wish to undertake cooperation actions projects. The designation of focal points should be coordinated with current initiatives and frameworks at the ECOWAS level.  

The time is ripe with opportunities, given that in December 2018, the Task Force on Displacement will present its recommendations to the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24).   Likewise, the newly-approved Global Compact on Migration, targeting climate change as part of Objective 2, can provide many opportunities to develop strategies, Plans of Actions and programmes to prepare, mitigate, adapt and build resilience to climate change-induced migration and displacement from 2019 onwards.

Find out more

MIEUX Factsheet on West Africa

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