Skip to main content

IDRC supports research on governing climate displacement

IDRC invests 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. IDRC is investing a total of CAD4.2 million in Southern-led initiatives on the governance of climate displacement, through the following six 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.  

Learn more 

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. 

Learn more 

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. 

Learn more 

In response to the escalating impact of climate change, two East African universities will deepen research on the multi-dimensional nature of climate- change-induced displacement, under the leadership of their IDRC Research Chairs on Forced Displacement. Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia will focus on the climate change-migration nexus in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania will analyze environmental, social and political factors driving displacement in Kenya and Tanzania. Both research chairs seek to strengthen governance and build resilient communities in the face of climate crises.

The School of Public Policy at Chiang Mai University, Thailand, will address the sustained climate change and irreversible loss of agricultural land affecting some agricultural communities in Southeast Asia. Through case studies in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, the project will develop a land allocation framework that responds to the priorities of vulnerable farming communities in the region. Building on existing collaborative approaches to resettlement, the research team will involve civil society organizations, local communities and academic and state actors to forge resilient, just, and sustainable resettlement policies for farmers displaced by climate change. 

Climate-induced displacement in the Middle East and North Africa is often exacerbated by conflict-driven migration and vulnerabilities linked to gender, race and economic status. The Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center in Lebanon leads research in the region, including an in-depth analysis in Morocco, Yemen and Iraq, on governance responses to climate-induced migration. Drawing on multidisciplinary perspectives, primary fieldwork and local research partners, the project will assess national policies governing population displacement, explore community-based adaptation mechanisms and identify more inclusive strategies for the governance of climate-related displacement. 

These six projects build on IDRC-supported research on climate adaptation and climate-induced resettlement.  

A separate CAD6- million investment is generating evidence-based best practices to enable successful adaptations for immobile populations and populations seeking to relocate safely across South Asia. It is part of the Climate Adaptation and Resilience (CLARE) initiative, co-funded by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and IDRC.