Thematic Working Groups
Environmental change and migration

Jointly with the University of Liege, the KNOMAD Thematic Working Group on Environmental Change and Migration hosted the workshop “Quantitative Assessment of Environmentally-Induced Migration” on 9-10 May 2016 at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC.1 The workshop was attended by more than 35 researchers and practitioners from a variety of academic institutions as well as environmental and development organizations.

The focus of the workshop was on the current state of play in the quantitative assessment of human movement – internal and international, forced and ‘voluntary’ – related to declining environmental conditions, and its impacts on migrants as well as on sending, transit, and receiving locations. The workshop also facilitated an exploration of synergies with the forthcoming World Bank study on “Climate change, Migration, and Securing Resilience” (tentative title). It addressed three dimensions in particular:

1. Current methodologies in quantifying the environment-migration nexus, e.g. household surveys, mobile data, and modeling;

2. Harmonizing existing data sets; and

3. Maximizing the utility of quantitative assessments for policymakers and key stakeholders.

While an increasing number of studies and datasets document the environment-mobility nexus, challenges persist on some key fronts. The number of rigorous quantitative studies is limited, and systematic reviews are still not comprehensive. The existence, usability and accessibility of data are limited in some regions. And even where data is available, methodological and data-related limitations render cross-study comparability difficult. Finally, it was also ascertained that the theoretical basis is currently not robust enough to provide a meaningful framework for environmentally-related migration. The workshop thus recommended that researchers:

1. Review and refine migration theories in order to better understand and map environmentally-related movements, in a similar vein as former synthesis efforts in the field;

2. Create an improved and more actionable data basis, by producing an inventory of data (sets), filling existing gaps, better integrating migration questions in existing data collection efforts, harmonizing data sets, and finally applying the harmonized data to create models identifying long-term trends;

3. Strengthen the epistemic community and pursue a targeted research agenda, to gain a more powerful voice in current climate negotiations, as well as to better align with and shape interests of policy-makers and donors; and

4. Embrace ethical responsibility, engaging in critical reflection on the means and ends of quantitative assessments, in order to provide better input into global, regional, national and sub-national adaptation efforts.