Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

Philanthropy Missing the Boat: Climate Displacement Calls for Attention

For funders who want more of a participatory role in causes they support, UUSC’s climate displacement funders guide encourages donors to become advocates and serve as active bridges for grassroots solutions.

A new funders guide points to immediate and future needs of climate-affected indigenous communities: Relocation? No designated international resources on the horizon

Climate migration: it’s a human rights issue, says Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Media contacts:
Jan Dragin, Dragin Communications, 24/7, 011 339 236-0679
Shayna Lewis, UUSC, 617-301-4333


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Monday, December 18, 2017— Foundations, charities, humanitarian organizations and other direct donor sources looking to enter climate change-related philanthropy can now launch those efforts with a distinctly under-exposed focus — on climate migration and its human rights implications. That invitation is prompted by a new report and funders guidebook released today by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) human rights organization.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based UUSC announced the publication, “Community-Led, Human Rights-Based Solutions to Climate-Forced Displacement—A Guide for Funders,” concurrent with today’s United Nations observation of International Migrants Day.

“Communities currently most affected by climate change — particularly coastal and low-lying indigenous communities — are the least recognized or funded internationally to deal with the challenges of climate mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and ultimate displacement or whole-community migration,” said UUSC Senior Program Leader for Environmental Justice and Climate Action Salote Soqo.

UUSC hopes to encourage more private foundations and funders to become vitally engaged in helping make measurable, positive differences in what is arguably one of the biggest issues facing mankind and the planet.

Projections for how many people will be displaced by climate change vary widely from 25 million to one billion people by 2050, but 200 million is the most widely cited estimate.*

“This is not a future problem. It is a current problem. Individual households and entire communities have already relocated or are currently planning relocations across the globe – from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to Louisiana and Alaska,” said Amber Moulton, UUSC’s Researcher and co-author of the guide.

“We’re introducing here a grounded primer for donors who are needed to fill the void in international financing — but through direct, partner-to-partner relationships, where the affected communities are self-determining their steps for the future,” Moulton said.

“One of the key weaknesses of existing international funds like the Green Climate Fund or the Adaptation Fund is that none of these funds are designed to distribute money directly to communities that are on the frontlines of climate change,” she said, “like Tuvalu, Kiribati and other Pacific islands where residents — citizens— are already being displaced by slow-onset climate impacts.”

According to data collected by the Foundation Center, Human Rights Funders Network and other sources, most funding from major foundations and from bilateral and multilateral donors goes to recovery and reconstruction after natural disasters, not to risk reduction and adaptation to climate change impacts. “And only a tiny fraction is going to projects that focus explicitly on climate or environmental displacement,” said Moulton.

Philanthropy can fill that void by directly resourcing affected communities, according to UUSC’s Soqo.

“These climate-threatened communities have the wisdom, will and abilities to craft for themselves the best mitigation, adaptation and ultimate relocation solutions with dignity. What they need are funders who are also true partners in the process.”

Soqo stresses that the guide — and UUSC’s own climate change advocacy and programmatic work and philosophy — are centered on the pre-eminent principle that communities have the right to craft their own desired and best solutions, with support based on partnership rather than trickle-down frameworks.

“The right to self-determination must be at the core of climate relocation planning,” she says.

For funders who want more of a participatory role in causes they support, UUSC’s climate displacement funders guide encourages donors to become advocates and serve as active bridges for grassroots solutions.

UUSC currently supports climate change and climate displacement programs and advocacy in Alaska and in a growing number of Pacific island nations.

Amber Moulton, Salote Soqo and Kevin Ferreira are authors of the climate funders guide.


* Source: “Migration, Climate Change, and the Environment: A Complex Nexus,” International Organization for Migration (IOM),