Migration and Global Environmental Change: Mediterranean Workshop Report




Zihnioglu, O.


Migration and Global Environmental Change: Mediterranean Workshop Report




Government Office for Science UK


Section 1 offers an outline of the Foresight programme, the Migration and Global Change Environmental (MGCE) project, as well as background to and purpose of the workshop. The Foresight programme is run by the UK Government Office for Science (GO-Science) and it helps the UK Government, as well as policy makers at home and internationally, to think systematically about the future and develop robust policies for tackling the challenges of the 21st century.

The GEM project examines how climate change and other environmental factors could affect human migration over the next 50 years. Accordingly, the GEM project aims to provide an understanding of causal linkages in the environmental migration system as well as an analysis of possible policy implications and responses.
In order to attain the aforementioned objectives, the project commissioned evidence reviews on dryland margins (e.g. Southern Africa), the Mediterranean region (e.g. Turkey), low-elevation coastal zones/small island states (e.g. Bangladesh, Pacific Islands) and mountainous regions (e.g. the Himalayas) where the interplay of environmental and non-environmental drivers is likely to be of most interest to global policy makers.
Section 2 of the report presents the Foresight Migration Outcomes Model and discusses the drivers of migration in general and with respect to the Mediterranean region. The Migration Outcomes Model shows that migration is a multi-causal phenomenon driven by many factors in both countries of origin and countries of destination. These factors include the major drivers of migration (demographic, social, economic, political and environmental) which could be influenced by or could interact with environmental change as well as the interpretation of these drivers at the personal, family and community levels.
There are a number of trends and issues that may impact migration from/to/through the Mediterranean. These trends and issues include enhanced communication in the region through wider access to international TV channels and social networks, the Arab uprisings since December 2010, ongoing urbanisation, demographic trends displaying the decrease in population growth in the southern Mediterranean and Turkey, and finally the state-run projects in Turkey that may lead to environmentally induced forced migration.
Turkey sets an interesting example of how different drivers of migration interact and change in the course of time. It is important to study the case of Turkey as different dynamics of migration result in different paths and patterns of migration through and within Turkey.
Section 3 looks at the relationship between migration and environmental change. The GEM project introduces a clear separation between environment and environmental change. Accordingly, while environment is one of the direct drivers of migration, environmental change refers to global systemic changes to the environment and it is separate from the environment as it is likely to impact on all other drivers. Furthermore, there is a two-way relationship between environmental change and mobility. While mobility can be a way of addressing and dealing with the negative consequences of environmental change through exchange of experiences, transfer of knowledge and skills, it can also affect the environment in places of destination, origin and along routes of transit, which may, in turn, provoke further migration and displacement. Finally, this section mentions the probable future implications of climate change over environmental change in the Mediterranean and Turkey.

Section 4 looks at the characteristics of migrants at the individual, family and community levels as well as the factors which can affect the destination of migration with respect to the Mediterranean region. An important point is the people who are not moving. A lot of people under environmental risk choose not to move or cannot move for various reasons.
Section 5 provides a projection and an analysis of how environmental migration may unfold in the future. Accordingly, this section starts with a presentation of the future scenarios developed by the GEM project for the timeframe between 2030 and 2060 with an assessment of their implications for environmental migration. The scenarios could be improved by expanding the axes and narratives, paying attention to the regions’ interdependence, clarifying the relation between global growth and environmental policies as well as highlighting the role the European Union (EU) may play as a parameter of these scenarios. In addition, a number of themes are relevant when considering what environmental migration might look like in the future. An important theme that is underlined in the report is the recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa/South Mediterranean region, i.e. the Arab uprisings. The direction that these countries will take is important to our understanding of which scenario will prevail in these countries.

Based on the migration policy space (‘policy flower’) developed by the GEM project, Section 6 assesses the policy implications of environmental migration and reviews the policy makers. An interesting finding is that increased mobility through more liberal laws may reduce migration. This is because people who aim to circulate, without necessarily wishing to settle permanently, are able to leave, return and leave again with greater ease when borders are open. On the other hand, closed borders oblige people to stay put, even as irregular migrants.
Another important issue is that the policies need to be considered in view of the national interests of the politicians. This is because politicians may at times have to defend their policies against popular opinion, in which case the necessity of the policy could be highlighted through its relation to the national interest.

Migration is a policy challenge that should be treated as part of a wider range of policy areas. Therefore, this section looks at different policy areas that are related to environmental migration, which include urbanisation policies, disaster policies, energy policies, education policies, health policies, agricultural policies and protection policies.

Section 7 outlines the additional stakeholders to engage in the project regarding the Mediterranean region. At the international level, these stakeholders include the existing platforms of international and regional organisations. These organisations are Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is carrying out a project on the assessment of climate change and its security implications; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as it has environment-security partnership with OSCE; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Regional Environment Center (REC). An important point is the necessity of effective enforcement. Accordingly, where needed, new international legal instruments with enforcement mechanisms should be developed and countries should be encouraged to take part.

On the other hand, participants at the workshop highlighted that stakeholders in Turkey should include public institutions, local governments (municipalities), development agencies and actors of civil society.


Zihnioglu, O. (2011). Migration and Global Environmental Change: Mediterranean Workshop Report. London : Government Office for Science UK.