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IDRC pledges to support research on governing climate displacement

IDRC is launching new investments in the governance of climate displacement as part of a pledge to support Southern-led research, announced by the Government of Canada at the Global Refugee Forum 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Peruvian Red Cross representatives address of group of people sitting in stands.
Angela Zapata/German Red Cross and Climate Centre

The new research will help understand how to ensure effective and meaningful governance in the context of displacement due to climate change. 

It is estimated that 150 million to 216 million people will be forced to leave their homes and lands due to climate change by 2050. Their movements will be driven by factors such as extreme weather events and slow-onset impacts like water scarcity and sea-level rise. Climate-related development projects and adaptation policies, including planned relocations and resettlements, will also drive this displacement.  

Governance poses a key challenge in cases of climate-induced displacement and resettlement — namely, how to ensure that responses are designed in an inclusive, participatory and human-rights-compliant way. The new research will identify strategies to ensure the involvement and participation of vulnerable groups in responses to this displacement, with a focus on relocation and resettlement programs.  

"Governments have the responsibility to respond to people being forced to flee when their lands become inhospitable,” said Caroline Ford, director of IDRC’s Democratic and Inclusive Governance program. “They need research to know how to do this in an accountable, inclusive and people-centred way.”  

The pledge was announced as part of the Government of Canada’s pledge package at the Global Refugee Forum 2023, held from December 13 to 15. IDRC will invest a total of CAD4.2 million in Southern-led initiatives on the governance of climate displacement, starting with the following three research projects:  

The Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales is studying how climate change affects the movement of people in the Central Andes, a region that is highly vulnerable to climate-related displacement. The work entails a comparative analysis of existing regulatory frameworks and institutions dealing with this issue in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru and case studies on community knowledge, experiences and responses in situations of high vulnerability. This research will help strengthen the knowledge and capacity of communities on the move due to climate change and support the development of public policies and tools to improve the governance of climate-related displacement in the region.  

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In South Asia, an estimated 700,000 rural settlements are at risk of displacement due to the climate crisis, with floods becoming increasingly frequent and more severe. The University of New South Wales (Australia) explores the needs and coping mechanisms of displaced populations across Nepal, Bangladesh and India, and investigates how they can participate in governing their situations. The research is developing and testing a unique rapid assessment tool for displacement vulnerability, particularly for women and girls, and a model to mitigate these vulnerabilities, with a focus on the housing ecosystems where people displaced by climate have moved to. The project is being undertaken in collaboration with SEEDS Technical Services, India; Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur, India; Tribhuvan University, Nepal; and BRAC Institute for Governance and Development, Bangladesh. 

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Extreme weather events caused by the climate crisis are displacing many people and populations across Southern Africa. The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association leads research to explore the legal, policy and institutional frameworks for climate-related displacement in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and analyze the impact of these frameworks on affected local communities. The analysis will also consider how intersecting forms of exclusion (such as gender, class, age, ethnicity and race) influence the governance of climate-induced displacement. The comparative nature of the research will support cross-country learning experiences and support the development of training, advocacy, and outreach programs targeted towards national and regional policymakers, community leaders and civil society organizations. 

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