Pacific Island countries, like many small island developing states, face a complex set of issues related to human mobility (forced displacement, voluntary migration, and planned relocation) and disasters. The Pacific Islands are regularly affected by severe windstorms, cyclones, flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. Even more important, however, is the threat climate change impacts such as rising sea levels and increasing sea temperatures pose to Pacific Island countries.
Pacific Regional Civil Society Meeting
This background paper has been drafted to inform the Nansen Initiative Regional Civil Society Meeting “Impacts of Climate Change and Disasters on Human Mobility in the Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities” held from 18-20 August 2014 in Lami Bay, Fiji.
The Pacific Islands include 23 countries and territories comprised of thousands of islands spread across a vast geographic territory. An estimated 10 million people inhabit some 300 islands. Of these, 6.9 million people live in Papua New Guinea. Despite their small populations, the islands are culturally rich and socially diverse, with land in particular often governed according to distinct customary systems.
The need for cultural preservation in the face of climate change and human mobility is a recurring theme in the Pacific Islands. The notion of culture is complex. Cultures constantly evolve and encompass a wide variety of elements, including language, religion, food, architecture, livelihood practices, clothing, art, music, storytelling, etc. In the Pacific region, land is of particular cultural importance. According to one author, “land holds life together and holds meaning, land equals identity.” Most Pacific Island land is regulated by a variety of customary regimes. Similarly, the concept of land in the Pacific Islands is extremely heterogeneous, and defies any general description. Notions of family kinship, cultural identity, and clans are closely linked to ancestral land, and for some, land cannot be detached from those who ‘belong’ to it. At the same time, through their long history of migration, Pacific Islanders also have a “cultural identity as great travelers, inheritors of their ancestors’ remarkable achievements in navigating, sailing and settling throughout islands of the expansive Pacific Ocean.”
The Pacific Regional Civil Society Meeting “Impacts of Climate Change and Disasters on Human Mobility in the Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities” brought together some 40 participants representing regional and national civil society organizations, academic institutions, government and international organizations. The overall objectives of the meeting were to raise awareness of the issue of climate change, disasters and human mobility (displacement, migration and planned relocation) among civil society organizations (CSOs) within the region, introduce the work of the Nansen Initiative and the role churches play in migration accompaniment, and identify opportunities for follow up within the region. On the final day, participants developed recommendations and actions for further action by Pacific CSOs on disasters, climate change and human mobility.
CLUSTERS AND HUBS: TOWARD A REGIONAL ARCHITECTURE FOR VOLUNTARY ADAPTIVE MIGRATION IN THE PACIFIC
Bruce Burson and Richard Bedford
Pacific peoples have had to contend with and adapt to a multiplicity of disruptive and destructive geological and extreme weather events for centuries. While temporary internal migration and displacement have featured as a response to the events in many instances, the current concern about the effects of climate change in the region has generated discussion about the extent to which future disasters or slow‑onset environmental degradation will lead to increased cross‑border mobility or displacement. This research was commissioned to follow up on recommendations from the Nansen Initiative’s Pacific Regional Consultation held in May 2013 which concluded that, while having to leave one’s country was the least preferred option for Pacific peoples, cross‑border mobility in the context of natural disasters and environmental degradation was a reality in the Pacific region which demanded that states begin to plan for movement now. It was recognized that voluntary migration abroad was only one way, within a set of broader policy options, to prevent future displacement and adapt to climate change.
DISASTER RELATED HUMAN MOBILITY WITHIN RELEVANT PACIFIC REGIONAL LAWS, POLICIES AND FRAMEWORKS
A. Gero, Institute for Sustainable Futures,University of Technology, Sydney
As small island states in a vast ocean, Pacific Island Countries (PICs) are highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including extreme weather events, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. There is mounting evidence that climate change is altering the patterns of weather‑related disasters globally, including slow onset events like droughts, sea level rise and rapid onset events like tropical cyclones, flooding and severe storms (IPCC, 2012; IPCC, 2013; Knutson et al., 2010). The direct and indirect impacts of climate change, coupled with ongoing development challenges, are becoming increasingly visible in particular parts of the Pacific region today.
LAND AND HUMAN MOBILITY IN THE PACIFIC: THE EFFECTS OF NATURAL DISASTERS
This report is a further output of the Pacific Regional Consultation. The consultation outcomes identified land issues as a key challenge for measures to address disaster‑related human mobility in the Pacific.
The outcomes document recommended actions to ensure, in circumstances of displacement or relocation:
• adequate mechanisms and/or safeguards to prevent and solve conflicts over land and resources due to factors such as cultural diversity or population growth.
• measures such as land audits, demarcation of uncontested boundaries and community land mapping to facilitate the identification of land.
PACIFIC DIASPORA: MOBILITY, TRANSNATIONALISM, AND IDENTITY OF TUVALU
Based on diverse dynamics of motivations, a large number of the Pacific Islanders have formed diasporic communities in metropolitan countries beyond boundaries. Transnational migration is not a new phenomenon among them as these practices with the continuous flow of remittances have been central to the socioeconomic development of Pacific microstates since the post-colonial era. This paper explores the questions of the impact of transnational migration of the Pacific Islanders and their maintenance of cultural values through their community activities. The findings I present here are based on qualitative analysis of transnational migration among the several Tuvaluan immigrant communities in Auckland, New Zealand. The Pacific diasporic islanders maintain their strong links to their homelands in multiple and complex ways, and the forms of mobility and transnationalism continue to shape their lives.