• Lead-organizer: International Organization for Migration (IOM)
  • 17:00 - 18:30
  • Date: 20 Jun 2012
  • Room: T-6

Vulnerability of urban migrants: Challenges and responses

Organizing partners

UNISDR (tbc)


Increasing numbers of migrants, including refugees and internally displaced persons, move into cities in search of the opportunities cities provide. Cities offer more livelihood options and security for those fleeing crises areas. Recent research has described how intense weather events, sea level rise and accelerated environmental degradation exacerbated by climate change act as a major driver of migration, including displacement. Populations under environmental or climate-induced stress, or affected by natural disasters or conflicts, are prone to gravitate to urban areas, where they often face multi-dimensional vulnerabilities which too frequently are chronic and recurrent. Additionally, this increase in urban population risks putting further strains on limited resources, weak infrastructure and fragile ecosystems, particularly for many of the world?s largest cities located in low lying coastal regions.

The side event, in the form of a panel-led discussion, will elaborate upon key issues at stake and launch a number of concrete initiatives and voluntary contributions to the implementation of the post-Rio+20 sustainable development agenda.

Detailed programme

This side event will focus on understanding the drivers of migration towards urban areas and the particular situation of the urban migrant, including displaced persons. A panel-led discussion will review the need for strengthened disaster risk reduction efforts, especially as they relate to the multi-dimensional vulnerable urban populations.

The event brings together high-level government officials and heads of three of the major organizations working in this field in order to discuss key issues and to launch concrete voluntary contributions to the implementation of the post-Rio+20 sustainable development agenda. Among the participants will be:

Government of Bangladesh
Government of Barbados (tbc)
Government of Norway (tbc)

Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Mr. Antˇnio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Ms. Margareta Wahlstr÷m, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction (ISDR) (tbc)

As migration is a reality for one in seven persons on the planet today, the links between globalization, sustainable development and migration in the context of Rio+20should be addressed. A growing body of evidence illustrates the degree to which migration impacts social and economic development. Furthermore, recent studies now give us insights as to how climate change is becoming a major driver of global migration patterns.Practically, cities such as Nairobi, Port au Prince, Khartoum and Manila have all witnessed recent major population movements due to crises, illustrating the vulnerabilities of the populations and how disaster risk reduction and resilience play a critical role.

A key factor in the rapid growth of cities, mega-cities in particular, is the continuous flow of incoming migrants, including displaced persons, many of whom originate from rural areas and smaller urban areas. Though many are drawn to large cities by the prospect of a better life, others increasingly migrate from environmentally-fragile areas as a means to adapt to climate change. In the case of those forcibly displaced, they often seek protection and assistance that urban cities may offer, yet they too often end up in over-crowded slums and peripheral spontaneous settlements that lack the most basic services. Without formal support, they frequently seek work in the informal labour market and are unable to enjoy equal rights and opportunities as local citizens, both in developed and developing countries. Local government and planning authorities need to proactively plan for environmentally sustainable and socially responsible settlements. This situation creates multi-dimensional vulnerabilities, exposing migrants to increased risks including disease, higher mortality rates, and urban violence. Creating specific responses to the needs of urban migrants and displaced for integration, access to health care and education is a fundamental matter for sustainable development. Likewise, return and reintegration should be supported as an option for those who choose to do so.

At the same time, refugees and displaced persons may find themselves in disaster prone areas, often in fragile states. This increases the risk of secondary displacement, further impacting vulnerabilities. . As the drought in the Horn of Africa demonstrated, rapid changes to fragile ecosystems have resulted in large numbers of displaced people. As famine was declared in Somalia, thousands made their way into refugee camps throughout neighbouring Kenya in dire search of food and shelter.

The international community has long been engaged with setting up procedures and protocols for emergency preparedness and risk reduction to cope with exposure to environmental hazards. There is a greater need to develop regional approaches to reduce potential future risks and better prepare for disasters. Building resilience to disasters and climate change is both cost-effective and saves lives, while also serving to avoid resort to forced migration as a survival strategy.

Voluntary commitments for the Secretary-General registry (further details to follow in the registration of Voluntary Commitments)

Primary sustainable development area: Sustainable cities

? Development of regional mapping tools tracking potential migratory movements

? Input to the Resilience agenda and in particular ?Resilient cities? through presentation of pilot projects together with representatives of participating governments

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