6 Nov 2023, Roseau Dominica – A critical agreement and statement of intention by nine Eastern Caribbean States of the OECS grouping was launched on the sidelines of the Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week (LACCW) on Wednesday 25 October 2023. The high-level “Ministerial Declaration on Migration, Environment and Climate Change”, signed by the Ministers of National Security and Immigration of the member states and associate member states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) makes an urgent call for enhanced cooperation and action to address the impacts of climate change and environmental hazards, including massive displacement, effects on livelihoods, relocation of communities, the need for data, evidence and statistics, and limited partnerships and financing.
Stakeholders from around the world gathered in Panama at the LAC Climate Week 2023 to discuss and address the climate crisis, including the critical issue of cross-border climate displacement in the Eastern Caribbean. The Ministerial Declaration was launched at a side event coordinated by IOM-UN Migration, The UN Disaster Risk Reduction agency UNDRR, the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to put the recommendations of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) Task Force on Displacement into action. The event encouraged governments, organizations, and communities to work together to develop and implement policies and strategies that safeguard the rights and well-being of displaced individuals. Regional Technical Specialist Pablo Escribano opened the side event on behalf of IOM by highlighting the urgency of addressing cross-border displacement due to climate change and disasters in the Caribbean. He emphasized the need for international cooperation and action to support vulnerable communities facing the devastating impacts of climate change.
Dr. Clarence Henry, Senior Technical Officer of the Regional Integration Unit at OECS, presented the Ministerial Declaration. Speaking on behalf of the OECS Governments, Dr. Henry shared insights into the regional context and the importance of collaboration among the states to address climate displacement.
“OECS Ministers with responsibility for immigration matters in recognition of the high level of vulnerability of the OECS region to the wide range of environmental and climate hazards in this Ministerial Declaration articulate their deep concern for the adverse impact of climate change and they place an urgent call in this Declaration for enhanced cooperation and action that will address the following climate change impacts: the massive displacement of populations; the diverse patterns of internal and international migration; the need for relocations of communities most exposed to environmental impacts; the need to address the data gap associated with human mobility and the paucity of finance and the need for partnership to address this gap.”
Ms. Elizabeth Riley, Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), provided an in-depth analysis of the efforts undertaken to enhance disaster risk management and response in the region. She stressed the need for proactive strategies to mitigate the displacement of people due to climate-related disasters. She stated,
“I wish to offer four priorities for addressing this issue from a human security perspective. The first priority is the focus on mitigation efforts on building climate resilient communities that can withstand the impacts of hazards and the resulting disasters. A second priority is to understand who has moved and to ensure the availability of adequate shelter and protection. Third, the considerations on how we evacuate this place and what arrangements should be made in the receiving states requires some attention. And finally, regional cooperation is essential to address disaster displacement effectively, and a strengthened engagement between disaster management and security practitioners is required”.
Throughout the event, attendees engaged in fruitful discussions, sharing knowledge, best practices, and innovative approaches to address climate displacement in the Eastern Caribbean. Participants recognized the need for a collaborative, region-wide response to effectively tackle the challenges ahead, and praised the steps being made by the OECS in this regard in the development of the “Cross-border Evacuation Protocol for Countries of the Eastern Caribbean in the Context of Disasters”.
The Ministerial Declaration (see here for full document https://bit.ly/4738xsw) is a landmark agreement, illustrating the commitment of OECS Governments to take action to address climate related impacts including human mobility and human security threats through harnessing the power of multi-stakeholder partnership among governments, financial institutions, academia, NGOs and communities. The immediate next steps will involve establishing an OECS Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Climate Change, Environment and Migration, and developing a Plan of Action for the implementation of this Declaration.