Climate-Related Migration Puts Cities on the Front Line: Robinson
Cities have a central role to play when migrants displaced by climate change, poverty, and conflict are seeking a new place to rebuild their lives, said Mary Robinson, former UN Commissioner for Human Rights, in a Newsweek article published ahead of her presentation to the Global Mayors Summit in New York earlier this week.
More than 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes by a variety of factors, including climate change. “In the past few weeks alone, we have seen the physical, social, and economic devastation wrought on American cities and vulnerable communities across the Caribbean by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the death and destruction caused by monsoons across South Asia,” Robinson wrote.
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“We know from previous experience, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, that some people affected will be displaced from their homes forever.”
While many will be drawn to cities, “the capacity to integrate these new arrivals in a manner consistent with their human rights and dignity is often woefully inadequate — reflecting an equally inadequate response from political leaders,” she noted. “This illustrates the profound injustice of climate change: those who are most vulnerable in society, no matter the level of development of the country in question, will suffer most.”
Last year in New York, countries adopted a set of guiding principles to improve the global response to migrants and refugees. The results since have been mixed, but Robinson stressed that “cities are at the front line of this struggle. How they rise to the challenges of reception and integration can demonstrate the great benefits of economic pluralism, which is an essential tool in combating xenophobic and anti-migrant narratives.”