Regional meeting eyes Pacific climate migration and displacement

Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga delivers the keynote address at the opening of the regional meeting on climate change and displacement at the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva tonight. Image: UNESCAP

By Debbie Singh in Suva

A regional meeting to consider key Pacific priorities and responsibilities for advancing commitments under international and regional policy frameworks on climate change migration and displacement opened in Suva today.

Senior Pacific island government officials from Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, as well as representatives of development partners and various experts will be discussing issues at the three-day meeting such as:

  • development-migration nexus in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • building resilience through labour mobility;
  • migration and displacement as they relate to loss and damage under the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage;
  • and regional mechanisms to address the needs of migrants and displaced persons.

The meeting is a key activity of the European Union funded PCCM project which aims to develop the capacity of Pacific Island countries to address the impacts of climate change on migration through well-managed, rights-based migration schemes and policy frameworks, supported by comprehensive research and knowledge building.

It is a joint collaboration between the European Union funded Pacific Climate Change Migration Project (PCCM) implemented by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) with support from International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations University (UNU).

‘Highly disruptive’
Delivering the keynote address at the opening of the meeting, Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga said: “Climate change displacement and unplanned relocation are highly disruptive to livelihoods, culture and society and require proper, well-planned interventions to support people in their efforts to adapt to the challenges, particularly in securing access to decent livelihoods.

“Maintaining sovereignty, self-determination, cultural identity and territorial rights are of primary concern to Pacific Islanders in any form of climate change-related migration.

“The international response must also include adequate strategies to deal with persons displaced because of climate change, and their human rights must be protected.”

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Christoph Wagner said: “It is clear that climate change, and the impact climate change has on the environment, will become an increasingly important driver of migration from rural to urban areas within Pacific island countries and to other countries.

“The European Union is supporting the PCCM project to help prepare our partner countries for migration. Those who are going to be leaving their countries, either temporarily or on a permanent basis, need assistance from their governments, Pacific regional organisations and development partners.

“We also want to help those Pacific island countries who are going to be receiving migrants to maximise the opportunities that the additional labour, expertise and experience can offer.”

Collective strategy
Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, said: “The movement of people in the Pacific due to the effects of climate change is sadly a growing issue that needs our collective attention.

“The region must come together and work out a strategy for how to best ensure that the rights and wellbeing of our Pacific sisters and brothers who are facing displacement and relocation are protected and nurtured. This must include those who do not want to move”

The UN Resident Coordinator for the Pacific based in Fiji, Osnat Lubrani said the UN considers this complex issue requires greater attention in the context of the Pacific region’s journey to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

The head of UNESCAP Pacific Office, Iosefa Maiava, noted that the need to address climate change and mobility issues is recognised in the newly-adopted Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) by Pacific leaders.

The regional meeting will build on existing global and regional policy directions to promote alignment and coherence, including the FRDP, the Paris Agreement, the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM), the Samoa Pathway and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Debbie Singh is Pacific communications specialist for the UNESCAP Pacific Climate Change and Migration Project.

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