UNU MN Blog Series on migration, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic

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  • 2020•11•19     Maastricht

    2020 has been an unprecedented year where global challenges of migration, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic have collided. In this new blog series from the UNU Migration Network, we bring together contributions that explore the interrelations and impacts of climate change, COVID-19 and migration. The series examines these connections at a local and global level while highlighting the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change on migrants themselves. The contributions in this series span global geographies and discuss the implications for migrants, the United Nations and policymakers.

    This series builds towards international migrants day to highlight the protection and multiple other challenges faced by migrants across the globe with a focus on the acute challenges of the COVID pandemic and climate change.

    The Climate Change, Migration, and Health (Care) Nexus: Implications for Low-income Regions


    Ilse Ruyssen (UNU-CRIS), Charlotte Scheerens (Ghent University)

    Photo: Denis Onyodi/IFRC/DRK/Climate Centre, Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0

    Climate-related migration and its implications for health is a hot topic in the current discussion on the impacts of climate change. However, despite many projections and forecasts, there is still no consensus on the magnitude of such population movements and how these movements impact migrants’ health. Nevertheless, low-income regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), will likely experience the highest mobility response. Their economies rely heavily on environmentally-sensitive activities such as agriculture, while their unfavourable socio-political and demographic context also spurs movement. Continue reading here.

    Is COVID-19 Shifting Attitudes Towards Sustainability? A Case Study from Amsterdam


    Sonja Fransen (UNU-MERIT), Dominique Jolivet (University of Amsterdam), Beatriz Cardoso Fernandes

    Photo: Alex Proimos, Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0


    On 17 March 2020, the Mayor of Amsterdam announced new measures to contain the coronavirus, including the closure of schools, restaurants, and cultural venues. In July 2020, researchers from the Migration, Transformation and Sustainability (MISTY) project sent an online survey to members of the Amsterdam City Research Panel asking them what impact the coronavirus crisis was having on their lives, set against the broader backdrop of sustainability (understood here in terms of social, economic, and environmental sustainability). Members of the Amsterdam City Research panel are ‘Amsterdammers’ who regularly participate in different online surveys about varying subjects related to the city. Our sample included 1,381 individuals, of whom 20% are migrants, 53% are Dutch-born with parents also born in the Netherlands, and 24% are Dutch-born with parents born abroad. Continue reading here.

    The Importance of Decentralised Development Cooperation for Migrants in a Post-pandemic World


    David Passarelli (UNU-CPR)

    Photo: S.Castañeda / EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0


    Five years on from the launch of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global goals remain a largely aspirational project and one that is struggling to recover from the devastation of a new, highly contagious virus. Taking stock of progress in 2019, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed for “dramatic action” to correct a development trajectory that was woefully off-track: the global community was expected to overshoot the target to eliminate global poverty by 42 years (2072), gender inequality by 59 years (2089), and also fall short on most environmental sustainability targets.

    Since sounding this alarm, nearly 1.5 million people have lost their lives to COVID-19 and the global economy — services, trade, tourism, manufacturing, and industrial production — has been battered. The United Nations estimates that 170 countries will experience negative per capita growth this year with a total projected output loss of nearly USD 9 trillion.

    We can expect these changes to impact global migration in at least two ways: (i) more people will have reason to move in search of safety and opportunity; and (ii) they will face new barriers to mobility and access to services that will compound existing vulnerabilities. Continue reading here.

    Rethinking Water-Migration Interlinkages Within the Context of the COVID-19 Crisis


    Nidhi Nagabhatla (UNU-INWEH)

    Photo: © IOM / Muse Mohammed.

    Managing multiple challenges during this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, and planning beyond the pandemic, is proving a tough task for states, leaders, and communities globally. The spectrum of crises ‘as of’ or ‘due to’ the pandemic calls for inclusive, sensitive, and participatory planning, support, and programmes. In the Central Africa region the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on people and communities, including migrants, highlight some uncomfortable facts, with media outlets and development agencies reporting bleak narratives from locals suffering from the COVID-19 situation.

    The overwhelming health response required to combat outbreaks of measles, tuberculosis, and other life-threatening infectious diseases like Ebola, have rendered the region’s health systems stressed. In May 2020, Doctors Without Borders reported how multiple disease outbreaks in Central Africa had led to delayed vaccination campaigns and disease prevention measures. However, the situation is particularly acute in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — a country with a significant refugee ( > 500,000) and internally displaced (5 million) population due to conflicts and other triggers related to water and climate crises and outbreaks of disease. Continue reading here.

    Tackling COVID-19 and Climate Change in Unison Will Help Us Better Protect People on the Move


    Photo: © Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson / UNU

    Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson (UNU-EHS)

    The COVID-19 pandemic gives us a stark image of what a world looks like when health is threatened on a global scale. Life as we once knew it has come to a standstill. When we do overcome this pandemic, however, the health and well-being impacts of climate change, will continue. The 2020 Lancet Countdown report published earlier this month shows how climate change is leading to immediate, profound, and worsening health impacts across the world. Bringing together 120 scientists from various research fields, and covering 43 global indicators, the report reveals how no country is immune, but also how some populations (such as people on the move) will suffer more than others.

    I have been part of the Lancet Countdown since its very beginning and I currently work with the sub-working group focusing on human migration in a warming world. We estimate that, based on current population data, 145 million people will be exposed to potential inundation with global mean sea-level rise of one metre. The amount of people exposed jumps to 565 million with a five-metre sea-level rise scenario. Continue reading here