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Migration Advocate Calls on Delegates at COP23 to Address Climate Change Displacement

Web ExclusiveNovember 17, 2017
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As researchers at the United Nations climate summit in Bonn warn that Pacific Islanders may be among the first to be forced to migrate due to climate change, at least 23 million people were displaced by extreme weather last year. We continue our look at the issue of displacement by due to climate change with Dina Ionesco, the head of migration, environment and climate change at the International Organization for Migration.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. We’re broadcasting live from the U.N. climate summit, COP23, the Conference of Parties. And we’re here in Bonn, Germany, but this is a conference sponsored by Fiji, a South Pacific island that is in the crosshairs of climate change, of the—really, of the fossil fuel industry. It could not handle the number of people who came for this summit, so Bonn is hosting it. Interestingly, it’s very cold outside, and it’s very warm inside, so people have said it’s Fiji inside and Bonn outside.

But we’re going to bring you right now Part 2 of our conversation with Dina Ionesco, Dina Ionesco who is such an important figure when it comes to the issue of climate migrants. She’s head of the migration, environment and climate change at the International Organization for Migration.

Can you start there? What is the IOM?

DINA IONESCO: So, the IOM is the U.N. agency for migration. It’s a very big organization, intergovernmental organization, where we have been pushing very strongly over the past 10 years to bring climate change also on the agenda of migration policy and practice. It’s an organization that’s also very action-oriented, so my colleagues, as we talk, the majority of them are in the field working with migrants, working with communities and assisting people there.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So how do you see the issue of climate refugees being represented here at the COP?

DINA IONESCO: So, here at the COP, we’ve been now for 10 COPs present. Sixteen COPs were with no mention of migration. So, climate migrants were totally invisible for 16 long years of negotiations. And now, we are building up on what has been agreed in Paris. The Paris Agreement recognizes migration and migrants’ rights and what we call displacement. So we use, rather, “displacement.” We use, rather, “migration” or “human mobility.” We do not use the “refugee” terminology in the context of climate change, because it doesn’t have a legal background. To be a refugee, you have to be under the Geneva Convention for Refugee to show persecution, and you can’t show persecution from climate change. So—

AMY GOODMAN: What about those that cause climate change?

DINA IONESCO: That’s a whole other debate about climate justice and how you connect climate justice issues to issues of migration. So the debate is there. But if you want to talk in terms of what is the terminology around migration, I think we have to be very nuanced and careful about it, because migration, it’s also very positive. It’s a driving forth of people, and many people just migrate for a better life. And many people here are migrants. So, if we—

AMY GOODMAN: You yourself.

DINA IONESCO: I’m also a migrant. I was a refugee. And I’m very, very proud of my migration experience of life, because if you can say—when you—

AMY GOODMAN: You were born in Romania?

DINA IONESCO: I’m a Romanian who moved to France with my family. We ran away. And once you lived through migration, I really believe you can see migration—you know, you are both sad—you lose a lot—and you are both, in the same time, extremely happy, because you gain a lot. And I think that’s what we try to say here with migration. Let’s be careful, not put people in boxes and not see migration just in its forced form. Of course we need to take care of migrants who have to move because of climate change or for migrants who are already on the move because of climate change. But we also want to see migration as a possible way to adapt to a degrading environment, at the end of the day, and also as a positive strength and drive of life.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we thank you so much for being with us. Dina Ionesco is the head of migration, environment and climate change at the IOM, the International Organization for Migration. We’re live from the U.N. climate summit here in Bonn, Germany. You can go to to check out Part 1 of our conversation. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

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