2050, as many as one billion people could be displaced by a combination of climate change impacts, extreme events, and environmental degradation, thus raising critical concerns about finding appropriate climate adaptation in disaster risk
 reduction strategies.”

Austin Snowbarger, manager of learning and partnerships at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), highlighted this stunning fact during the introduction of CDP’s recent webinar: Climate Refugees: Supporting Receiving Communities, which brought together experts to discuss effective ways for funders to address the challenges of climate migration. Snowbarger moderated the discussion between Sarah Jamesen, operations lead at USA for IOM; Jono Anzalone, executive director of The Climate Initiative; and Abu Sadat Moniruzzaman Khan, climate change programme head at BRAC.

Natural hazards, including drought, and famine can cause migration and exacerbate political instability and conflict, which also cause people to move from their communities. “Climate refugees” are not a recognized class of people and are not protected under international refugee laws. 

Problem-solving with Displaced People and Host Communities 

Khan highlighted the work of an adaptation center that is run by a community-elected mayor. The center identifies the problems caused by climate change and deploys local resources to address them. BRAC provides a range of support including capacity-building training and livelihood training so people can adjust their lives to fight the impacts of climate change.

Anzalone emphasized that “tons of listening” is required to successfully create solutions with displaced people and the communities that they move to. He also explains that it is important to address “not just the logistics of providing support to those communities, but the cultural and psychological elements that communities have to process.” Solutions should also rely on local resources and labor. Hiring from within host communities is the best way to ensure that the people who are best equipped to inform solutions are leading the conversations.

Three Ways Funders Can Make a Difference

Jamesen shared several ways that funders can support displaced populations and their host communities.

  1. “Look for the opportunity” rather than seeing only challenges and burdens. Remember that displaced people bring skills and assets to host communities.
  2. Give unrestricted dollars. Organizations may be hampered by earmarked funds that do not provide them the flexibility they need to respond to changing situations. Jamesen explains that organizations need funding that allows them to “invest in innovative approaches instead of just addressing new problems with the same solutions.”
  3. Jamesen encourages donors to fund organizations “committed
 to empowering, not just the local community or the host or the receiving community, but also the arriving community.”

Watch the full webinar at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.