Enhancing the capacity of Pacific Island countries to address the impacts of climate change on migration

Building on its mission to improve the capacity of constituents to protect migrant workers and enhance the management of migration, the ILO, in partnership with ESCAP and UNDP, is working on a project to develop the ability of Pacific Island countries to address the impacts of climate change on migration through well-managed, rights-based migration schemes and policy frameworks, supported by comprehensive research and knowledge building.

Climate change has had, and will continue to have, profound ramifications for the people living in the Pacific region. As sea levels rise, ocean acidification increases, tropical storms and cyclones become more intense, and freshwater lenses are affected by salt-water intrusion, people whose homes and livelihoods are significantly affected or destroyed may be forced to relocate or may voluntarily choose to migrate in search of better livelihood opportunities. Despite the possibility of these dramatic changes to migration in the Pacific, policy and regulatory frameworks on migration are weak – with poor availability, timeliness, coverage and accuracy of migration data, and few national policies on migration, nor national planning on how to address the future impacts that climate change will have on migration.

Ensuring that migration is planned and managed will enable Pacific Island governments to take precautions to minimize risks including the effects of a ‘brain drain’, internal migration to urban slums (which are often in environmentally vulnerable areas), conflicts over land rights, and other risks. It will also lead to more stable livelihoods and greater remittances. There is therefore an urgent need to develop, based on an improved knowledge base, holistic and coordinated strategies, at a national and regional level, that create a framework for managing increased migration, particularly by improving Pacific Countries’ participation in regional and bilateral labour mobility schemes.

Participating Countries

The project aims to address objectives at both a regional and a targeted country level. At the country level, it will target the countries in the region most vulnerable to the effects of climate change – Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru – and assist these countries to develop tools and build capacities that enable them to better predict and manage the challenges posed by climate change and its impact on migratory flows.
Ultimately, the activities under this project will link in with other climate change mitigation and adaptation programs to provide communities in areas vulnerable to climate change impacts with the ability to stay (through increased resilience to the impacts of climate change) and also the viable option to migrate, should they wish.


The project has three interconnected objectives:

  • Objective 1: To build a knowledge base on migration flows, policies and practices in the region, and the projected impacts of climate change on migration, including labour migration;
  • Objective 2: To enhance national capacities to address the impacts of climate change on migration in the Pacific Island countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; and
  • Objective 3: To improve regional knowledge sharing and cooperation on the issue of climate change-induced migration and labour migration.
The project activities will begin by developing a baseline of information on the impacts of climate change on migration in the Pacific region, current migration policies and practices and an assessment of how the current framework on migration is placed to cope with current and future changes in climate in each of the target countries.

Recognising that Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru are the countries in the region that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and the limited resources and institutional capacity at their disposal, the project will focus its capacity building activities on these three countries, mobilizing the expertise of ESCAP, UNDP and ILO, as well as regional expertise.

These knowledge building activities, and policy implementation in Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru, will not only form a foundation for a better understanding of climate change induced migration in Pacific Island countries, but will also help to launch a regional discussion on the topic of climate change migration amongst policy makers, researchers, migrant workers, employers and other stakeholders through online Communities of Practice and an online information sharing platform.

ILO’s work

The ILO will play an integral role in the project by providing technical expertise to build up knowledge of regulatory frameworks on migration, address the capacity constraints of target countries to develop labour migration statistics and policies, and to progress the development of rights-based bilateral and multi-lateral schemes on labour mobility.
The increased focus on regional labour mobility, particularly in light of the impacts that climate change will have on international migration, is likely to stimulate and advance nascent mobility schemes such as the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) Temporary Movement of Persons scheme and the Melanesian Spearhead Group labour mobility negotiations.

For further information please contact:

Ms Sophia Kagan
Labour Migration Technical Officer
ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries
Suva, Fiji
Email: kagan@ilo.org