Empirical evidence and policy responses regarding climate change and migration – What role for migration in local adaptation?

Event Type

Bonn, 13.03.2014 until 14.03.2014


Europen Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST); United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS); German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

Rationale for the workshop
To the present day, a predominantly negative understanding of migration in the context of climatic and environmental change has prevailed. Migration has often been portrayed as a threat for human national and international security in policy fora or in media’s representation of the topic. Despite this fact, empirical research shows that migration should be predominantly discussed in the context of adaptation and sustainable development. Several studies have shown that rural-to-rural and rural-to-urban migration are important livelihood strategies to diversify income of rural households who are both highly depend on natural resources for their livelihoods and live in areas that are vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate and environmental change. Financial and non-financial remittances are essential means of coping with environmental change. But these adaptive effects of migration are also challenged in particular by precarious living and working conditions for many internal and international migrants. Thus, people often prefer forms of in situ adaptation before resorting to mobility and leaving their households and communities of origin for good. Alongside with circular, seasonal or other temporary forms of migration, people usually adopt a range of adaptation strategies (for instance in agriculture), which can be farmer-driven or facilitated by development agencies (i.e. community based adaptation) or extension services.

Notwithstanding the growing evidence, further research is needed to better understand the circumstances under which migration can be considered as a form of positive adaptation that increases the resilience of households in the face of climate and environmental change. More comparative analysis is needed to identify common patterns concerning how mobility can enhance local resilience across large regional, socio-economic, cultural and political variations – especially in the context of co-adaptation strategies. In order to come up with sound and effective policy recommendations, it is also necessary to better understand the limits of vulnerable communities’ adaptive capacities, given the fact that future climate scenarios hint towards increasing changes that will further push the limits of communities.

Workshop outline
This workshop wanted to provide the platform for a constructive discussion and assessment of the migration-adaptation nexus that will be based on different case study results from all over the world (including information about the different combinations of research methods used). Adaptation strategies by different actors will be in the focus of attention. These will comprise of: local adaptation strategies such as farmer-driven agricultural adaptation strategies, and their interrelations with different forms of migration which can be perceived as long-term adaptation or short-term coping strategies. Questions addressed in the workshop were: Which common patterns of migration as effective adaptation strategies can be identified in local adaptation contexts and what are their limits? What are possible interrelations between migration and other forms of adaptation? Are local actors recognized as adaptive agents and in how far is migration generally being perceived as a potential adaptation/development strategy by governments and development agencies? Taking this into consideration, how can governments and development agencies foster local mobility-inclusive adaptation processes?

In the line of the COST Action, this workshop intended to improve scientific exchange to increase awareness of the adaptive potential of migration in the context of climate change, stressing the human agency of migrants, their fellow households and the communities affected by adverse effects of climate change. At the same time, this workshop also addressed the limits of adaptation.

Workshop outcome
The desired outcome of the workshop was to document an empirically based overview of the nexus between local adaptation and migration. The expected outcome was to draw conclusions based on best practice examples that capture the empirical quintessence of studies focusing on migration in the context of local adaptation processes. We planed to coauthor a journal article or an edited volume that will summarize the state-of-the-art to inform the scientific community about the outcomes of this workshop. On the second day of the workshop, we intended to do a write-shop to prepare the writing process.

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Event information

13.03.2014 until 14.03.2014


UN Campus
Hermann-Ehlers-Straße 10
53113 Bonn