Prime Minister of Grenada and Chairman of the OECS Authority, Dr. Keith Mitchell threw his full support behind the movement towards increased collection, management, and utilization of data to make more robust decisions to combat the effects of climate change in the Eastern Caribbean.
His statements were made during the Opening Ceremony of the Regional Dialogue on Human Mobility and Climate Change Data at the Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinsky Dominica on Monday 4 October 2021.
“The experiences of OECS countries and the available data on climate change effects have illustrated the vulnerability of small islands to environmental hazards, and the significant impacts of these events. Moreover, these events are happening with increased frequency and are more impactful and detrimental.”
Dr. Mitchell noted that all citizens of the OECS Member States are familiar with the impacts of climate change, and underscored the need for understanding through improved data and building resilience: “Understanding the impact of these environmental hazards and the associated movement of people, through enhanced data collection and analysis and improving the governance framework for addressing human mobility and climate change adaptation, is invaluable to our national and collective responses to these hazards. Therefore, the outputs of this project will contribute to building resilience to these environmental threats.”
Officials of the six independent member states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), working primarily in the sectors of Immigration, Statistics, Labour, Foreign Affairs, Disaster Management and Planning, gathered with other state and non-state representatives and international organizations to launch of a set of new reports themed “Migration, Environment, Disasters and Climate Change Data in the Eastern Caribbean” published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office, and the collaboration of the OECS Commission.
Regional Director, Michelle Klein-Solomon brought focus to the progress that has been made and accessible solutions to address the impacts of environmental hazards on human mobility. “First of all, it is important to remember how advanced the Eastern Caribbean region is in terms of free movement of persons. The Eastern Caribbean Economic Union provides OECS citizens the right to move and settle in any other participating islands. This protocol offers a much-needed solution for persons who must leave their countries due to the impacts of hurricanes or other hazards. ”
She recognized the leadership of CDEMA in risk management in the Caribbean, and acknowledged that the political will of Caribbean countries in international negotiations has been crucial to advance ambitious climate change mitigation actions and underscore the impacts of climate change in Small Islands Developing States.
The IOM Regional Director noted, however, that there is a need for robust evidence to make sustained changes in building resilience against climate change, stating that “A better understanding of the climate change and human mobility nexus is widely recognized as a fundamental step to prevent displacement and assist people on the move”.
Researcher Dr. Stephen Adaawen revealed that while there was data being collected about movement of people in Member States, it does not allow an examination of the drivers of movement, and in some cases it not harmonized. There are some best practices being demonstrated in Member States, and there is an opportunity to learn from each other. The Regional Overview report alludes to the opportunities and the gaps in data, suggesting recommendations for each member state and for regional organizations such as the OECS, for improved collection, storage, and management of data related to movement of people because of environmental or climate factors.
Technical officers in the key sectors related to environmental or climate-drive migration from the six participating Member States continued to dialogue during the day, delving further into the topic of migration, environment, and climate change in the Caribbean context. There was lively discussion and a consensus that more data is necessary to understand, at a national and regional level, the trends and implications of the complex scenarios that occur in the case of migration driven by climate and environmental factors, and specifically movement of individuals and families into, out of, and within member states due to these factors.
The regional overview report “Migration, Environment, Disasters and Climate Change Data in the Eastern Caribbean” is now available online, free of charge, at the IOM Bookstore (https://publications.iom.int/books/migration-environment-disaster-and-climate-change-data-eastern-caribbean-regional-overview), the Environmental Migration Portal, and the Global Migration Data Portal, as well as the website of the IOM Regional Knowledge Hub on human mobility in the region of Central America, North America and the Caribbean (https://kmhub.iom.int/en).
The ultimate objective of the conference was to enhance the capacities of the governments of the six participating OECS Member States to collect, analyze and utilise data on migration, environment, disasters and climate change.