Solutions for the Global Governance of Climate Displacement

In 2019, the High Commissioner for Human Rights declared climate change the greatest threat to human rights in the twenty-first century. Climate change’s relatively slow-onset effects, such as sea level rise, desertification, and water salinization and associated sudden onset events like floods, hurricanes and droughts have become major drivers of human displacement. Of the 33 million new internal displacements in 2019, 25 million occurred because of disasters and climate events. The World Bank recently estimated that 143 million people in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia will be displaced due to climate change by 2050 (about 55% of the developing world’s population).  

Over the last ten years, states, international organizations and civil society have initiated policy work on this massive collective action problem generating new ideas like community resilience, voluntary migration pathways, and intact mass resettlement, among others. But the slow pace of this developing global conversation, a pervasive lack of coordination and domestic implementation, and the absence of a human rights-based approach underscore the insufficiency of the current global governance architecture for responding to climate displacement (McCarney and Kent 2020).    

Consistent with the World Refugee & Migration Council’s mandate to offer bold strategic recommendations for transforming the global refugee system, the Council is initiating a research-driven advocacy campaign to promote innovative solutions for the global governance of climate displacement:   

  • Create defendable criteria that are gender responsive and grounded in human rights that allow us to identify when and how climate degradation is a leading cause of displacement
  • Develop model domestic legislation and trial best practices for climate displacement claims through new determination proceedings
  • Promote both internationally and multilaterally with like-minded partners 

Policy Brief: