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About the event

Many recent reports on the likely impact of climate change have highlighted the potential for large-scale ‘environmentally-induced’ migrations in developing regions of the world over the next twenty to fifty years. Environmental transformations resulting from increases in global atmospheric temperatures have prompted many experts to predict the collapse of traditional livelihoods systems, increased conflict over natural resources, regional ‘water wars’, and a resulting population of ‘environmental refugees’ that some have predicted will be hundreds of millions strong.

As yet, there is little concrete evidence to justify such predictions. There is a significant lacuna in both conceptual and empirical research on the relationship between environmental change and the patterns and process of migration. For example, it remains unclear how one can differentiate between ‘environmentally-induced displacement’ and other forms of displacement, given the complex mix of factors which underlie people’s decisions to move.

This workshop sought to address this lacuna by bringing together academics, activists, policy makers and development practitioners to share research, experience and analysis on the subject. In particular, the workshop addressed the following questions:

  • How can we conceptualise the relationship between environmental change and migration, particularly ‘forced’ and ‘economic’ migration? What do the concepts of resilience, adaptation and transformation bring to our understanding of this relationship?
  • What empirical evidence is available to underpin existing analyses of the links between environmental change and migration? What are the gaps and how are they being filled?
  • To what extent does migration related to environmental change give rise to new challenges for humanitarian response or notions of sustainable development? Should those who migrate as a result of environmental change be afforded specific forms of legal and social protection?
  • How important are questions of political economy in determining the relationship between environmental changes and migration locally, regionally and internationally?
  • How is environmental change likely to influence migration patterns in the 21st century at the local, regional and international level?