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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 8th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Geneva – Addressing the Impact on Human Security of Environment and Migration Issues – Ensuring human security in a world challenged by the three pressing issues of the day – climate change, environmental degradation and migration – will be the focus of an international conference in Geneva on 19 February.

Jointly organized by Greece under its chairmanship of the Human Security Network and IOM, the conference will examine both the impact of environmental degradation and climate change on human security and migration as well as the impact of migration on the environment and how interaction on these two phenomena can lead to potential conflict.

While there has been increasing international focus on climate change, environmental degradation and migration as separate subjects, the impact of both on human security and the potential for conflict, has not received the same level of attention from policy makers and researchers.

Although data on the number of existing environmental migrants – those “persons or groups of persons who, for compelling reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their country or abroad” – and projections on future numbers are unclear with the latter varying enormously from an estimated 25 million to one billion by 2050, people across the world are having to leave their homes or countries because of rising sea levels, scarcity of water, inability to farm sustainably as well as vulnerability to an increasing number of weather phenomena that destroy lives and livelihoods.

Human displacement caused by natural disasters both sudden and slow on-set, in addition to political conflicts, also play a critical role in environmental degradation and tensions over decreasing resources especially water and land.

The conference, which will have keynote presentations by Theodoros Skylakakis, Secretary General for International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation at the Greek Foreign Ministry, IOM Director General Brunson McKinley, the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud and Kyung-wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights will not only identify key issues surrounding climate, environmental degradation, migration and human security, but will also explore ways of mitigating the impact of migration on the environment as well as using migration strategies to help limit environmental damage and potential human crises.

Panellists include E.Angus Friday, Grenada’s Ambassador to the UN in New York with Grenada chairing the Alliance of Small Island States, as well as prominent representatives of the academic and NGO community.

“Early planning and action on this complex and multi-dimensional issue can go a long way in lessening the impact of climate change, environmental degradation and migration on human security. We have an opportunity here of taking a step forward in addressing this issue,” says Brunson McKinley.

“Greece, presiding now the Human Security Network felt that people’s migration due to worsening climate and environment constitutes a challenge for human security. Geneva, where many of those who understand this serious and complex issue work and live, seems the right place to tackle this issue,” says Greece’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Franciscos Verros.

The Human Security Network is a group of 13 countries from various regions of the world which maintains dialogue at Foreign Ministers level on questions pertaining to human security and as an informal, flexible mechanism, identifies concrete areas for collective action.

The conference, which is being held at the headquarters of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in Geneva, is open to the media.

For background papers and the agenda, please go to www.iom.int and www.greeceun.org.

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