Climate change, human mobility and security governance

November 22, 2018 Environment , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , OTHER

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Erika Giacobbe



The movements of groups of populations in response to changes in their habitat are a phenomenon observed in various forms throughout the history of mankind. In today’s landscape, however, the acceleration of processes of degradation or change in the environment is assuming an ever-increasing role among the causes of forced migration. The migrations induced by environmental reasons have therefore attracted the attention of academic researchers, political institutions and civil society organizations, giving rise to a wide debate.


In terms of safety, there are two main concerns regarding the link between climate change and human mobility. The first one stems from the possibility that the effects of climate change can translate into an increase in internal and international migration flows. The second one is related to the fact that climate change could exacerbate pre-existing social conflicts. These scenarios, however, are not supported by specific researches on the subject. Indeed, it is difficult to make realistic predictions about the exact number of people who will be forced to move due to the adverse effects of climate change.


The international literature seems to agree that climate change will be able to quantitatively reinforce current migratory movements, rather than produce new ones in terms of countries of origin and destination. Moreover, it is probable that a large part of forced migration linked to climate change will remain cross-border or regional, when not internal.


Regardless of whether worries about future migration patterns can be alarming, it is necessary to question the relationship between climate change, human mobility and security governance in order to develop effective policies for the prevention and integrated management of these phenomena.


According to a study by Walter Kälin and Nina Schrepfer, it would be necessary to manage migratory phenomena through a holistic approach, based on four pivotal points:


1) Preventing cross-border migration by means of measures reducing the risks of disasters and the vulnerability of populations;


2) Managing migration as an adaptation strategy;


3) Create temporary protection regimes for environmental migrants and provide for permanent admission in cases where the return of these subjects to their country of origin is impossible or cannot happen in the short-term period;


4) Organize the relocation / resettlement of communities living in territories exposed to the risk of devastating environmental impacts.


Similar considerations are contained in a Report of the German Development Institute, which adds a fifth element to the aforementioned points, namely the elaboration of collective rights for local populations. The paper, however, underlines how the negotiation of international principles on environmental migration should not be considered a point of arrival. Indeed, to ensure effective protection of ‘climate refugees’, these ambitious principles must be concretely implemented.




Erika Giacobbe

Erika Giacobbe is an Italian graduate with a multidisciplinary academic background and a keen interest for human rights, climate change and environmental migration.

In addition to a master’s degree in social policies and services, she also holds a bachelor’s degree in legal studies and a first-level master’s course on the International Functions with a specific focus on international law and geopolitics.

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