UUSC recognizes the grave dangers that climate change impacts pose to the world’s most vulnerable populations. Increasing temperatures and variable precipitation are intensifying natural disasters, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, intensifying droughts and causing widespread flooding. These climate impacts are increasing food and water insecurity, affecting natural resource-based economies and livelihoods and leading to mass displacement. These impacts disproportionately affect the most marginalized populations by multiplying their risks, widening inequalities and threatening their basic human rights and dignities.

This reality has shaped UUSC’s Environmental Justice & Climate Action program to focus on advancing and protecting the rights of marginalized populations who are at risk of forced displacement caused by slow-onset climate impacts. UUSC’s program emboldens the principle of the right to self-determination by prioritizing building protections in place and when necessary and required by our partners, supporting communities to relocate with dignity.

UUSC recognizes that climate forced displacement occurs along a spectrum and has numerous human rights implications.

Goal

UUSC focuses on assisting indigenous populations of the South Pacific and Alaska—two distinct regions of the world that are highly susceptible to rising sea levels and climate induced natural disasters, and whose adaptive capacities are limited by their geographic isolation, their reliance on coastal resources and habitats, and their development limitations. We recognize that the limited adaptive capacities of these two regions are further heightened by the limited abilities of government institutions and policies to adequately respond to the multiple and ongoing issues that communities experience, and more importantly, the lack of human rights protections for people at risk of climate forced displacement. Therefore, UUSC aims to:

  • Strategically strengthen the capacities of affected communities to organize and advocate for rights-based solutions and protection and
  • Support affected communities to build protections in place and to implement community-led relocation/migration in a way that respects and reinforces their rights and human dignities.

Current Projects

Together, our partners cover six countries. By the end of 2017, we anticipate reaching a total of 18 countries.

Our partners work on various issues along the climate forced displacement spectrum. From building protections in place to relocation and resettlement. Below are some highlights of our partner’s work.

In Papua New Guinea, our partner has been working for the past decade to relocate households from the Carteret Islands to areas in mainland Bougainville. UUSC’s support is strengthening our partner’s advocacy at the local provincial and national levels to raise more awareness about their communities’ experiences and needs and for government support to help resettled households build their local infrastructures.

In Alaska, UUSC is supporting our Alaska Institute for Justice’s (AIJ) Rights, Resilience, and Community Relocation program. AIJ is working with 16 Alaska Native Tribes to develop advocacy strategies to enhance their ability to adapt to a radically changing environment and to ensure the protection of their human rights if they are required to relocate as a consequence of climate change.

Mayor Richard Tuluk of Chevak Village in Alaska stands in front of a home that is being demolished due to bluff erosion. Learn about our visit to Chevak.

In Kiribati, our partners are working to enhance dialogue about climate forced migration in the climate change debate, while advocating for rights-based responses and the humane treatment of climate migrants. They are also working to raise awareness about the unique needs of People Living with Disabilities in Disaster Risk Reduction planning and responses.

In Palau and Micronesia, our partner is strengthening the capacity of remote rural villages to build protections against climate change hazards, to help communities self-organize and to advocate for assistance from their governments and the international community.

Partner Impact & Activity

Our partners’ work in the Pacific and Alaska showcases how a community-led and human-rights based response to climate forced displacement should look. As the work progresses, we will be measuring and reporting on its’ impact.

Research

UUSC’s research supports our partners’ work and informs UUSC’s advocacy. We are currently working on two research projects:

  • Guidelines for funders describing why and how they can support communities impacted by climate forced displacement
  • A report highlighting community-based practices to respond to the spectrum of threats that climate forced displacement poses to people’s human rights

Advocacy Highlights

Pacific Climate Warriors

The Pacific Climate Warriors (PCW) is an advocacy powerhouse for the Pacific community. In the lead up to COP 23 in Bonn, Germany this November 2017, PCW is working with stakeholders to ensure that big coal groups are not welcome in this year’s negotiations. This work is a culmination of their unwavering fight against the coal industry, which ranges from physically stopping big coal ships in Australia to showing peaceful resistance in solidarity with indigenous tribes in Canada against the country’s tar sands development by big coal industries such as Kinder Morgan.

In addition to the advocacy efforts like PCW’s, UUSC is engaging in discussions and stakeholder meetings to advance a human-rights centered approach in addressing climate forced displacement at the international level.

In late May 2017, UUSC participated in a stakeholder meeting for the development of the Global Compact for Migration. The Global Compact will address the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and enhanced cooperation at the global level and is a result of the New York declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was signed by heads of states in New York City in 2016. This stakeholder meeting brought together all U.N. member States, NGO’s, and civil society groups. UUSC highlighted the need for transparency and equity in State processes, the engagement of the most affected communities in decision making, and the recognition of indigenous and basic human rights. UUSC’s remarks can be found here.

In early May 2017, UUSC attended the 16th Session of the People’s Indigenous Forum in New York City, where we participated in a panel with indigenous communities from the United States (North Dakota), Brazil, and Tuvalu to raise awareness about the implications of climate forced displacement on the rights of indigenous people. UUSC highlighted the rights of indigenous people to self-determination.

In recognition of the wide spectrum of issues associated with climate forced displacement, UUSC will continue to advocate for broader climate justice. This includes engaging our partners and supporters to denounce the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and the Trump Administration’s actions to suppress science, dismantle federal agencies, and reassign federal employees working to respond to the needs of communities who are at imminent risk.