In December, diplomats from more than 160 nations met for two days in Morocco to adopt the United Nations’ (GCM), a non-binding agreement that aims to make life a little easier for the unprecedented number of people worldwide who are on the move away from home.
One of the agreement’s signature achievements was to recognize the role that extreme weather and other climate-related disasters can play in prompting displacement and migration. According to the Nansen Initiative, a research collaborative backed by the European Union, between 2008 and 2014 an average of 22.5 million people were displaced every year by natural disasters. Experts expect that number to grow as sea levels rise, droughts last longer and storms worsen. By 2050, the total number of climate-displaced people could grow beyond 200 million — about two percent of the global population. And yet, there remains no legally binding international recognition or protection for climate migrants.
The GCM took the biggest step yet toward solving that problem. It
Riverbank Erosion in Bangladesh
Local officials still tend to view slum dwellers as illegal squatters, rather than residents with a right to basic services. Tariq bin Yousuf, a senior official at the Dhaka City Corporation, a government agency that manages the city’s infrastructure, says that while the city has plans to build more affordable housing, it prefers to leave slum residents reliant on aid from local and international non-governmental organizations. “If we invest money directly in slum areas, or give them an electricity supply, they will start to think, ‘O.K., we have these facilities, so we have the ownership of this land,’” he says. “Once we give them improved services, they become permanent.”
“If You Make It Safe and Legal, It Stops Being a Crisis”