Slowly, but surely: The environment, climate change and migration in ACP countries

Date published




ACP Observatory on Migration Background Note No. 4 – Oct. 2011

In the history of mankind, people have always migrated to cope with environmental changes. Now more than ever, the environment, the detrimental effects of climate change, and their links to migration are brought to public attention. This is of particular relevance for the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States.

The link between migration and the environment is twofold: migration can be induced by environmental change while at the same time migration flows can impact on the environment. Environmental change, in most cases, does not directly displace people. Instead, it interacts with economic, socio-cultural and political push- and pullfactors and increases an already high vulnerability stemming from economic weakness and a high dependence on the environment .
Six out of the twenty countries with the highest level of displacement following natural disasters in 2008 were ACP countries, accounting for almost 700,000 people in Africa alone. Yet the bulk of migration influenced by environmental change is expected to be triggered by slow-onset changes, such as increased droughts, heat waves and floods, among others. The environmental degradation of livelihoods is expected to cause higher volumes of internal ruralrural or rural-urban movements. Comprehensive data on this relationship is lacking, especially for ACP countries, making it difficult to devise national and regional adaptation plans. This is key if migration is not only to be considered as the last option, but as a possible adaptation strategy.

This background note aims to shed light on the concepts, observation and data challenges in relation to migration and environment in ACP countries, outline available prominent facts and figures in ACP countries, highlight the effects of the migration - environment nexus on human development and provide recommendations for policymakers in ACP countries.

It is available below in English, French and Portuguese.

Related countries


English version

Thematic area

  • Environment / migration linkages

Document type

Number of pages

13 pages

French version

Portugese version