Climate change and community-based relocation

The IPCC’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report and other studies recognize the potential for mass displacement and relocation of peoples and communities around the world.  Regardless of the causes, forced displacement and relocation has been shown to have predictable consequences for marginalized communities. MSV participants have identified climate induced relocation as an issue of major concern. 

A house in Shishmaref, Alaska, severely affected by erosion. ©  Lawrence Hislop

An MSV project called Climate Change and Community-based Relocation in the Arctic and SIDS will research and analyze the human rights implications of the displacement and relocation of vulnerable communities due to climate-related impacts. Using case studies from the Arctic and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the project will develop principles and guidelines that will serve as a model for community-based relocation of islands, low-lying and coastal communities, and other vulnerable communities that are forced to leave their traditional homes as a result of climate change.  The proposed guidelines must ensure that the human rights of affected peoples and communities are protected, and that such peoples are involved in the decision-making processes related to their relocations.

Workshops on Community-based Relocation

Recognizing the gap between community needs and international policy processes, (MSV) launched an initiative to connect and build the capacity of communities that are relocating. In September 2012, in partnership with the Center for International Environmental Law and the Alaska Immigration Justice Project, MSV held a dialogue between community leaders from Newtok, Alaska, and the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea to learn how informed and participatory decision-making can guide these relocations, minimize adverse effects, and foster community resilience.

Building on this initial dialogue, MSV held a global consultation, the Warsaw Dialogue, with affected peoples and communities – as well as community and civil society representatives, researchers and policymakers – to identify their needs as a means to develop appropriate tools and resources to assist such communities in their relocation efforts.   Held on 18 November at COP19 of the UNFCCC, the Warsaw Dialogue provided an opportunity to learn from and develop a collaborative network among those who are engaged in community relocation processes or relocation policies. The aim was to discuss the challenges communities face (as well as the opportunities) to gain a better understanding of the tools and resources needed to ensure that affected peoples and communities can meaningfully participate in relevant decision-making processes. The broader objectives are not only to provide direct support and help build the capacity of communities, but also to use this first-hand information and experience to inform policy discussions on climate-induced displacement and relocation at the national and international levels.

More details about the workshops are here (a blog).

A booklet on Newtok can be downloaded here (3.1 MB in PDF).

Partners involved

This Many Strong Voices project is a collaboration between GRID-Arendal, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), the Alaska Immigration Justice Project, and the communities of Newtok and the Carteret Islands.