Regional Director of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) , Michelle Klein Solomon, has said that focus should be placed on the progress made and solutions that are available to address the impacts of environmental hazards on human mobility.
She was addressing a Regional Dialogue on Human Mobility and Climate Change Data in the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) held at the Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski on Monday.
According to Solomon, everyone is aware of the extreme exposure and vulnerability of countries in the Eastern Caribbean to environmental hazards and the adverse impacts of climate change.
“The recent history of the region is proof of the devastating impacts these hazards can have, including in terms of displacement, and future projections are a cause for concern,” Solomon stated. “Yet today, I would rather focus on the progress that has been made and the solutions that we have at hand to address the impacts of environmental hazards on human mobility.”
She said the conference comes at the end of a 15-month project to improve the availability of evidence on human mobility and climate change in the Eastern Caribbean.
“During these 15 months, colleagues in Dominica, with the help of the IOM Global Migration Data Analysis Center and a team of expert consultants, have analyzed in depth the environmental data migration systems of the six target countries and shared recommendations that we will discuss these three days,” she noted.
Solomon said it is important to remember how advanced the Eastern Caribbean region is in terms of free movement of persons.
“The Eastern Caribbean Economic Union provides OECS citizens the right to move and settle in any other participating islands,” she stated. “This protocol offers a much-needed solution for persons who must leave their countries due to the impacts of hurricanes or other hazards.”
Furthermore, Solomon stated that cross border evacuations as they happened during the 2017 hurricane season or during the recent Soufriere Volcano Eruption, would have been much more difficult without free movement.
“Pursuing on the path of regional integration and offering contingent rights to persons on the move should be an important part of the solution to disaster displacement,” she noted.
She said Caribbean countries have also developed strong coordination systems to respond as one in cases of emergencies.
Under the leadership of CDEMA, risk management has become a priority throughout the region and emergency management organizations regularly share information and offer support to one another when disasters strike, Solomon added.
“This enables the delivery of rapid assistance, including for displaced persons,” the IOM official noted. “Much of the harm and destruction created by extreme hazards is unavoidable, but swift and proactive action and response can still mitigate damage and facilitate recovery for affected communities.”
Finally, she said the political will of Caribbean countries in international negotiations has been crucial to advance ambitious climate change mitigation actions and underscore the impacts of climate change in Small Islands Developing States.
“Caribbean States made significant contributions to integrate climate and environmental factors in the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration . They have also been key interlocutors within the Warsaw International Mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on the discussions related to migration, displacement and planned relocation,” she said.
“Data and evidence are a crucial part of all these efforts,” Solomon continued. “From climate mitigation and adaptation to disaster risk management and free mobility, policymakers and actors on the ground need concrete and actionable information to develop and implement activities.”
She thanked the Federal Foreign Office of Germany for its financial support to the project and the partners in the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.