Investing in resilience: addressing climate-induced displacement in the MENA region

by Jack Durrell

Executive Summary

Climate change threatens the viability of agriculture, ecosystems, and rural livelihoods in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In a region where agriculture is a critical source of employment and income, environmental degradation, and declining and more variable productivity, could potentially cause significant displacements, posing challenges in a region already beset by instability.

There is evidence that environmental factors are now influencing migration flows, and this influence is expected to grow as climate change intensifies and conditions become progressively hotter and drier. Investments are needed now to strengthen resilience and maintain rural livelihoods, helping communities to prepare for and recover from immediate weather shocks such as drought, and also adapt to shifting climatic conditions over the medium to longer term. The costs of our inaction will only grow as adaptation needs escalate.

The resilience strategy outlined in this discussion paper strategically targets regional priorities and challenges. It has three main components: (1) the improved collection of migration-related data to better understand the relationship between climate change, migration, and displacement, and help decision-makers devise more strategic responses; (2) proven adaptation measures to help rural communities adjust to both short- and longerterm climate threats; and (3) promoting migration as a form of climate change adaptation.

Given North–South inequalities, the existence of migration networks, and the fact that many rural households already use migration to diversify their incomes, the strategy is not designed to stop migration altogether. Instead, it offers a more practical approach: limiting involuntary displacement and, where possible, giving people the option of remaining where they are to build resilient and productive lives.