Environmental factors, including climate change, are likely to lead some people to migrate to safer places — as they see the handwriting on the wall. They will also force people to leave their communities after sudden-onset disasters; indeed an average of over 20 million people are displaced by weather-related disasters every year. While much of this displacement is temporary, there is growing evidence that some people will never return to their communities. And then there are the people who do not have the resources to move and will need to be relocated by their governments in order to protect them.
Since 2011, Georgetown’s ISIM has been working with partners – particularly the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration — on the issue of planned relocations. It isn’t easy to move a community; the physical relocation is difficult, but ensuring that people’s livelihoods are restored and services are available is even more complicated. In 2015, a meeting of experts was organized with the support of the MacArthur Foundation, which brought together experts from different fields and representatives of international organizations and governments to draft Guidance of general principles to be used by governments and others when planned relocations are necessary to protect people because of disasters and environmental change, including the effects of climate change. This Guidance has been widely distributed and has been used by a number of governments – from Ecuador to the US state of Louisiana to Fiji – when they have had to develop policies to move people out of harm’s way.
In 2017, ISIM built on this guidance by developing a Toolbox for planning relocations which provides checklists of issues to be considered in planning relocations and brings together best practices. The input of a large number of actors – from governments to the World Bank to academic experts from UN University to UN agencies – was needed to produce a Toolbox that would actually be useful in a range of situations. Launched in Geneva with an audience of government representatives and international organizations, the Toolbox continues to be a practical resource that can be used in a variety of situations.
In 2019, ISIM continued its work on planned relocations by working with Georgetown University Law School’s Climate Center in supporting US state and local governments to begin thinking about ‘managed retreat.’
Reports & Publications
- Elizabeth Ferris and Sanjula Weerasinghe, “Promoting Human Security: Planned Relocations as a Tool to Protect People at a Time of Climate Change,” Journal of Migration and Human Security. 15 April 2020. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2331502420909305
- Toolbox: Planning Relocations to Protect People from Disasters and Environmental Change
- Caja de Herramientas: Relocalizaciones Planificadas para Proteger a las Personas de los Desastres y el Cambio Ambiental
- Guidance on Protecting People from Disasters and Environmental Change through Planned Relocation
- Report on Geneva Workshop on Planned Relocations, Disasters and Climate Change
- Planned Relocations: Annotated Bibliography Update
- Practical Tools for Planned Relocation in the Context of Climate Change
- Governance and Climate Change-induced Mobility: International and Regional Frameworks
- Humanitarian Protection Perspectives for Disaster Risk Reduction Including Climate Change Adaptation
- Literature Review from the Brookings Institution
- Operational Framework Review from the Brookings Institution
- Background Paper from Expert Consultation in Sanremo, March 2014
- Report from Expert Consultation in Sanremo, March 2014