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Sicurezza climatica e migrazione. Sfide e soluzioni.

Climate Security and Migration. Challenges and Solutions.

One of the major drivers of migrations is climate change. It always has been. But with the rising of temperatures and the increase of extreme events like floods, droughts and heat waves, the number of people migrating is surging and, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, is expected to reach a figure of 1.2 billion by 2050. The situation is particularly critical in the Mediterranean region where temperatures are rising about 20% faster than the global average, as stated in the IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - report of February 2022.


To discuss this topic and possible solutions, the CGIAR Research Initiative on Climate Resilience (ClimBeR), CGIAR Focus Climate Security, and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT hosted in Rome on June 26th, the high-level event “Climate Security and Migration in the Mediterranean” with the purpose of discussing climate security, migration, climate mitigation and adaptation, climate resilience and food security. The outcome of this discussion will be the outline of a White Paper that CGIAR ClimBeR and CGIAR FOCUS Climate Security will be presenting to the G7 in 2024, under the Italian presidency.


Juan Lucas Restrepo, Director General of the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT and Global Director, Partnerships and Advocacy of CGIAR, opened the event with some staggering figures. Between 720 and 811 million people went hungry in 2020 and 258 million people in 58 countries and territories faced acute food insecurity in 2022, up from 193 million people in 53 countries and territories in 2021. CGIAR and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT are committed to give sustainable solutions for these challenges with a transformative adaptation approach. That’s why they instituted a Regional Climate Security Hub for the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) region in Cairo, Egypt with the aim of building an inclusive and climate-resilient food, land, and water system that will serve the purpose of supporting peace and stability in the region.


The first round of panelists had quite the difficult task of explaining how, in their view, climate change exacerbates the root causes of insecurity in the Mediterranean region.

Emanuela Claudia Del Re, European Union Special Representative for the Sahel and former Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, gave her perspective with very powerful examples from the field. The evidence that climate and security are deeply interconnected is, for example, the Lake Chad area where severe droughts and sand storms prevent the local communities from developing any agricultural or economic activity which makes them more vulnerable to terrorist groups like Boko Haram.

Emanuela Del Re gave another interesting example from the Sahel on how climate change is creating tensions and conflicts also within local communities. Traditional herders tribes are most vulnerable to extreme weather events. They have been forced to change their traditional rules of transhumance which is creating a lot of intergenerational tensions while exacerbating migration. South to south migration is significantly more impactful than south to north migration. In fact, around 30 million internally displaced persons, refugees and asylum-seekers live in Africa, representing almost one third of the world’s refugee population.

She proudly underlined the financial effort the European Union is making through the Global Gateway strategy, a financial instrument whose investment package for Africa amounts to 150 million euros, an unprecedented figure aimed at accelerating green and digital transition and sustainable growth. Along with the Regreening Africa project whose goal is to fight land degradation and biodiversity loss with the experience and commitment of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers, the European Union and its partners are embracing a new awareness acting for the future.

Ambassador Marco Giungi, Head of the Unit for Strategies and Multilateral Global Processes for Development at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, while reiterating the triple nexus between climate, migration and security, he warned of the dangers of either overrating or underrating a situation that is, by his own words, unprecedented. To avoid media sensationalism, science must be credible and data must be reliable. The Ambassador called for an interlinked and complementary strategy to tackle these issues under the umbrella of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Even though there is no silver bullet, an integrated, holistic approach is how we should address the root causes of climate insecurity in the Mediterranean.


From the southern shore of the Mediterranean, Minister Plenipotentiary Marwen Kablouti, Chargé d’Affaire of the Embassy of Tunisia in Italy, illustrated the precarious balance that his country is experiencing due to climate change. He started depicting a grim scenario of recurring droughts, heatwaves, water scarcity and other extreme events that are hindering agricultural production and putting economic pressure on rural communities whose livelihoods are in jeopardy. The Tunisian population has been hit with soaring food prices and shortages of basic staples in recent weeks and that has most certainly an impact on society, security and democracy. Like the other panelists, he called for a multi-sectoral approach to climate mitigation strategies that will enable local communities to strengthen agricultural production.


Water scarcity is a very important issue for Almotaz Abadi, Deputy Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean in charge of Water, Environment and Blue Economy, who insisted on the crucial role that water scarcity has on migration flux. Water scarcity, in fact, is as much a problem as water waste. In the Mediterranean countries, Italy included, between 40 and 50% of the water is lost in the distribution system. The public sector has been somehow unable to address water management issue and for this reason, Mr. Abadi insisted on the importance for the public sector to attract private investments and of establishing a regulatory system and strengthening the water governance. With a step by step approach, with the right partnerships and the involvement of the energy sector, he is confident that a blue economy model will build a strong blue mediterranean partnership.

Grazia Pacillo, Senior Climate Scientist and Co-Lead CGIAR Focus Climate Security, gave a science-based overview on climate security and its link to migration. There is a strong evidence that climate is exacerbating phenomena such as forced displacement and food insecurity. Communities enduring conflicts are highly vulnerable to climate risks and that is way more evident in the Mediterranean region where the effects of climate change are more visible. Climate induced migration is on the rise and can lead to insecurity as traditional climate adaptation strategies are failing. It is necessary to build climate resilience and new climate adaptation strategies as means to fight food insecurity.

The second panel saw the participation of representatives from relevant UN agencies like FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), IDLO (International Development Law Organization), IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). Julius Jackson, Team Leader in the Conflict and Peace Unit (CPU) at FAO, spoke mainly about the importance of engaging rural populations and local authorities to adopt more resilient agricultural practices that would reduce the need for water. 108 million forcibly displaced people is a staggering number and, of course, many factors concur to this situation. But it is crucial to work with refugees, communities and the private sector to create a more inclusive food system.


Another very interesting take on climate security was the impact of remittances on climate adaptation. Mauro Martini, Senior Technical Specialist, Financing Facility for Remittances, Sustainable Production, Markets and Institutions Division at IFAD gave a very clear idea on how migrants are actually contributing to climate adaptation. According to IFAD, in fact, only in 2022, 646 billion USD of remittances were sent back by migrants. This figure speaks volume about the potential of remittances which are for the most part invested in agriculture. Investing in agriculture back home is, de facto, an investment in climate adaptation.

Governance and legislation were at the center of the speech of Inmaculada del Pino Alvarez, Programme Lead of Food Security at IDLO. From a rule of law perspective, there are three main approaches to contrast climate insecurity. The first is empowering communities, especially women, which means putting people at the center of the decision making process, promoting participation through legislation and open access to information. The second is to ensure effectiveness and efficiency through legislation in order to provide social accountability. The third is justice to prevent and mitigate resource management conflict.

Fabien Tondel, Policy Coherence and EU-Africa Partnership for the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) concluded the second panel pointing out the importance of the political dimension of climate security. Though the political will to address these issues is not always present, he underlined the importance of a more territorial approach based on political legitimacy.

Governance, climate mitigation, justice, science, climate adaptation, food security, local communities, resilience, water management. These are the main concepts that the panelists explored. They all agreed that the current situation needs urgent attention, that climate security is a multifaceted topic which must be addressed in its complexity with the active engagement of the migrants and the local communities. CGIAR and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT had the merit of bringing together prominent experts for a stimulating debate. Their commitment to lead the discussion on these topics while contributing with their research and science is key to raise awareness ahead of the Italian presidency of the G7.

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