Type of practice:
The Eastern Caribbean region has witnessed a changing climatic regime in the last decades marked by an increased frequency and intensity of extreme climate events and related disasters. As a result, many people have been affected and some have even been displaced. Despite the importance of climate change in the region to this day, data and evidence on its impact on mobility are still limited. This knowledge gap hampers evidence-based policy development efforts as well as disaster preparedness and adaptation at the national and regional levels, thus sustaining existing vulnerabilities.
In 2019, the Caribbean Migration Consultations (CMC), an Inter-State Consultation Mechanism on Migration issued (approval pending) a Draft Plan of Action on Human Mobility in Contexts of Disasters and Climate Change that recognizes the need for adequate data to improve policymaking on environmental migration in the Caribbean. The same year, IOM organized a capacity building dialogue among the six independent member states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) which face similar challenges regarding climate change adaptation and have been affected by devastating disasters in recent years.
To support the continuity of these initiatives, IOM partnered with the OECS to develop a regional dialogue series to strengthen governmental capacities to collect, analyse and utilize data on human mobility and vulnerability derived from environmental change in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The initiative sought to support the integration of human mobility in climate change strategies and the development of evidence-based policies to strengthen the human security of populations in vulnerable situations. Project activities were organized around two components:
1. Improving data on environmental migration: The aim was to strengthen the six OECS member states’ capacities to collect and analyse data on environmental migration by (1) assessing national data systems to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to collect, analyse and utilize data; this phase concluded with an assessment report (with one regional and six national sections); and (2) developing technical guidelines on data collection and management.
2. Regional dialogue on environmental migration: The aim was to enhance and promote regional cooperation on environmental migration. This included (1) one workshop per each one of the six OECS countries involved in the initiative to discuss the status of data collection and management regarding environmental migration, and to identify areas of improvement; and (2) a regional OECS conference to identify best practices, develop regional guidelines and design a roadmap for enhanced cooperation.
Benefit and Impact
After assessing national data systems for 11 months, a consultant research team supported by IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) drafted a report with one regional and six national sections. Prior to its publication, a preliminary version was validated with national and regional stakeholders in a series of national workshops. The document identifies needs and proposes a roadmap to build capacities to better understand, prevent, and address human mobility. Findings also indicate the existence of useful sources of data that require more in-depth communication among stakeholders and potential adaptations for them to meet the requirements of policymakers involved in environmental migration and disaster displacement processes.
Several technical guidelines on data collection and management were created. They had a national approach and were designed by the consultant team, in cooperation with national practitioners, via several technical national events. With the input of key stakeholders, the guidelines aimed to assist national practitioners on improving data-sharing mechanisms and local capacities for understanding, preventing, and addressing human mobility linked to environmental challenges. The guidelines were included in the regional/national report and discussed at the final regional conference.
Regional dialogue on environmental migration:
In total, 120 government representatives from disaster coordination and emergency response, immigration, and statistics participated in the six virtual workshops to discuss data collection and management regarding environmental migration. Other participants represented sectors such as tourism, climate change, environment, education, labour, foreign affairs, economic and social planning, health, and local governments.
A regional OECS conference, hosted by the Commonwealth of Dominica in October 2021, brought together 102 participants (virtually and on site) to identify best practices, discuss regional guidelines and design a roadmap for enhanced cooperation. The assessment report -product of the first component- was distributed among participants. The regional conference further paved the way to discuss avenues to harmonize and share data between OECS member states on environmental migration and disaster displacement.
- The recruitment of the team of research consultants took longer than estimated. Since the national data assessments were the basis for other project activities, the late start proved to be challenging. To mitigate this, the team devised a plan to fast-track the process without compromising the quality of the study. In addition, the team met weekly to ensure that all significant deadlines were met, and timely feedback was provided to move on to the next stages of the research. This workflow was useful and could benefit other projects, even when there are no delays.
- The project depended on the identification of relevant stakeholders at the national level to provide information on the status of environmental migration data in each country. The inclusion of a local research assistant, based in Dominica, was useful to facilitate the exchanges among these counterparts and the international team of researchers. In addition, the familiarity the local assistant had with the region and its context benefited the thematic expertise of the research team.
- Even though not all knowledge champions could participate in their respective national workshops, the implementing team made sure they could have access to all the necessary information (recordings of the meetings and input made to the documents by other participants, for example). This was done via email or by organizing further exchanges after each meeting. This secured their informed involvement and support.
- The regional OECS conference in Dominica was a great opportunity to identify best practices and enable a final discussion on the findings of the report. This shows the importance of workshops as a way to complementing research processes and providing a space to discuss further cooperation including resource mobilization.
- Having IOM GMDAC as part of the initiative was a great asset. Their engagement facilitated communication among the national stakeholders and the donor (who has no presence in the region), allowing for continuous and pertinent updates on the progress of the project.
Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)
- Bring on board regional-level actors, such as the OECS Commission, that can lead the way with the right staff members or representatives who are well informed and support the process.
- Engage public officials -at the technical as well as managerial levels- in the activities and meetings of the project. While technical staff can follow up the discussions on a daily basis, senior level officials can be engaged at the kick-off for “buy-in”, and at the closure for eventual commitments.
- If the research task is going to be developed by an international/non-resident team, include local research staff in the activity to complement the international expertise with local knowledge.
- To maximize project visibility and promotion in each participating country present specific and contextualised communication materials at the national level.
- The engagement of other stakeholders (in line with the “whole of society approach” of the GCM) -especially civil society organizations and academia- can foster cooperation and coordination on migration data and climate change and support capacity building in the region.
- Widely use the report produced by the initiative to bring in more stakeholders and for continuity.