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Migration as a climate change adaptation strategy: A gender perspective

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Migration as a climate change adaptation strategy: A gender perspective.

Side Event 14.11.2017, 3.15pm:

  • Eleanor Blomstrom, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), “Climate Change and Migration in the Dry Corridor of Central America”. Presentation
  • Dina Ionesco, Head of Division, Migration, Environment and Climate Change, International Organization for Migration (IOM)
  • Ndey Fatou Jobe, Deputy Executive Director, Women's Bureau, Banjul, The Gambia
  • Dr. Ursula Schäfer-Preuss, Vice-President, UN Women National Committee Germany, and former Vice-President, Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank (ADB)

Background material

Below you will find various backfround material for the side event "Migration as a climate change adaptation strategy: A gender perspective", organised by the State Chancellery of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) and UN Women Nationales Komitee Deutschland on behalf of the netzwork Gender@international Bonn

Facts and Figures

Note on data and evidence: Gender-disaggregated data is missing. 

  • “While the linkages between migration, environment and climate change are now widely studied, discussions within public, policy and academic realms regarding environmental migration are often gender-neutral and few studies make the link between migration, environment and gender” (IOM Brief 13).
  • “The effects of climate change on population movements are likely to adversely and disproportionately impact poor and vulnerable populationgroups, especially women. While research on climate change-induced migration in itself is scarce, its impact on women is under-explored(Chindarkar 2012).
  • “Disaggregated migration data by gender and other social groups is needed to better understand these inequalities. In general – not just with regard to climate change – more information is needed on how men, women and children are affected by temporary and permanent migration and displacement, including their individual capacities to manage climate risk and mobility” (ODI)


  • Central America: By now 2005 and 2010 1,2 million people fled from El Salvador (CEPAL). From the 1970s until the first half of the 2000s mostly men migrated. However, the process of feminization of migration has started in Latin America in the last couple of years. This is linked to globalization of care chains and family reunification (ila 409/Oct. 2017).
  • WEDO-study: “Gender, Climate Change and Migration in the Dry Corridor of Central America” (forthcoming Nov 2017): “Interviewees (mainly in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador) perceive that women are migrating more than before and, in some areas, at levels similar to men. This illustrates the "feminization of migration". This does not imply that women orient themselves to the same destinations or occupations as men, which is a question for follow-up studies that include migrants in their assessments of places of destination” (quote from Eleanor Blomstrom, Head of WEDO office).

Structural interlinkages between climate change, gendered rights and migration patterns

  • “The IPCC confirms that human mobility does not have a single cause but rather emerges from multiple factors. These include poverty and demographic pressure, bad governance, depletion of natural resources or armed conflicts and violence. Economic reasons, especially regional income disparities between rural and urban areas, remain the most significant drivers of movement. However, climate change is an additional driver“ (GIZ Fact Sheet 2017, p. 1).
  • “For example, between 2008 and 2015 an annual average of 21.5 million people was displaced by weather-related disasters” (GIZ Fact sheet 2017, p.1).
  • “Slow-onset changes, such as increasing temperatures, desertification, deteriorating soil fertility, and sea-level rise, are projected to be major drivers for future movements. In the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean it is estimated that 2.2 million people will have to leave their homes due to sea level rise” (GIZ Fact sheet 2017, p.2).
  • Unequal gender distribution of roles and responsibilities and unequal access to resources may, indeed, make women more vulnerable than men to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters in both developed and developing countries. Data and experiences of current exposure to climate-related hazards suggest that, in most developing countries, because of a deeper economic and social gender divide, women often experience larger negative impacts of climate variability and change than men do as they tend to be poorer and less educated than men, to rely more on natural resources for their livelihood and to face social, economic, and political barriers that limit their coping and adaptive capacities (IOM mecc-outlook, gender brief 13, p. 104).
  • “Furthermore, climate change is a trigger factor for migration in the Dry Corridor. This mainly affects those women and men who have traditionally relied on agriculture to support themselves, and who currently have to migrate temporarily in search of paid work as a result of crop failure caused by drought” (WEDO-study, forthcoming).
  • “Climate change may not only directly impact women through environmental changes such as rise in sea level or increases in temperature, but also make them more vulnerable because of its interaction with socio-cultural factors. For instance, unequal gender relations and access to resources may make women more vulnerable to climate change than men. Furthermore, adaptation, that is, the ability to adapt to and cope with changes due to climate change, is also gendered. Adaptive capacities of individuals greatly depend on income, education, health and access to natural resources” (Chindarkar, N., 2012).
  • „Migration of women is linked to the situation and status of women in society. The decisions concerning who migrates, when, and to where are usually not made by women.  Migration of either sex has an impact on women, revealing their vulnerability in different contexts and spaces” (Abebe, 2014): ‘Climate Change, Gender Inequality and Migration in East Africa’, pp. 104).
© Jaipal Singh/EPA


If you would like to get further information in German please click here

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ)
· Website: www.giz.de
· Gender Knowledge Platform: https://www.gender-in-german-development.net/
· The Pacific Climate Change Portal (eds., 2017): Pacific Gender & Climate change Tool Kit (September 2017)

International Organization for Migration
· Website: https://www.iom.int/ and https://www.iom.int/iom-thematic-papers
· Dina Ionesco, Daria Mokhnacheva, François Gemenne (2017): The Atlas of Environmental Migration, Routledge
· Human migration, environment and climate change
· Migrants and Migration Policy in the Context of the Adverse Effects of Climate Change and Environmental Degradation (without year)
· Combating Trafficking in Persons and Contemporary Forms of Slavery
· Mariam Traore Chazalnoël, Eva Mach and Dina Ionesco (2017): Extreme Heat and Migration; IOM Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division (eds.), Geneva

 UN Women
· Statement by UN Women Executive Director on the adoption of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
· UN Women’s Flagship programmes:
Women’s Empowerment through Climate-smart Agriculture (Oct 2016)
Addressing the gender Inequality of Risk in a Changing Climate (March 2016)
Women’s Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Energy (January 2016)

Women’s environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
· 2017: Gender, Climate Change and Migration in the dry corridor of Central America
· Gender and Climate Change: A Closer Look at Existing Evidence (2016)
· Delivering on the Paris Promises: Combating Climate Change while Protecting Rights (Sept 2017)
· Gender Just Climate Solutions: Examples of Best Practice (2016)
· Gender Equality in the Climate Agreements (2015)
· Ensuring Women’s Access and Influence on Climate Change Policy (2014)
· Gender Climate Tracker App

Women’s Bureau, The Gambia
· National Review Report on The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action-Beijing Plus 20 (The Republic of The Gambia)

Gender CC
· gendercc.net/gender-climate/migration.html
· Chindarkar, N. (2012): Gender and climate change-induced migration: proposing a framework for analysis. Environmental Research Letters, 7 (2), pp.1-7
· Lori M. Hunter (2012): Environmental Change, Migration, and Gender 
· Sharmind Neelormi (2009): Climate-change related migration from a gender perspective: patterns, challenges and opportunities for intervention, Gender CC, Bangladesh (eds.) 

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre & Norwegian Refugee Council
· IDMC/NRC (2017): Global Report of Internal Displacement (May 2017) 

The Platform of Disaster Displacement
· disasterdisplacement.org/staff-member/the-atlas-of-environmental-migration
· El reto de la migración ambiental en Mesoamérica y el Caribe

German Watch
· Global Risk Report 2017 

· http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/womens-empowerment/gender-and-climate-change.html 

· Emily Wilkinson, Amy Kirbyshire et al. (2017): ‘Climate-induced migration and displacement: closing the policy gap’, ODI Policy Briefing, London 
· Medhanit A. Abebe (2014): ‘Climate Change, Gender Inequality and Migration in East Africa’, in: Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, pp. 104-140