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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Assessing the Evidence: Migration, Environment and Climate Change in Papua New Guinea

Publication Year: 2015 Publisher: International Organization for Migration


The national assessment report brings together available evidence on the climate change, environment and migration nexus in the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (hereafter PNG).1 The aim of the report is twofold, such that: (a) it maps the complex relationship between migration, environment and climate change by
looking at human mobility due to environmental change; and (b) it examines the existing policy framework and offers guidance to include environmental migration in PNG’s national planning.
PNG is the largest and most populated country in the Pacific, under threat from the impacts of environmental and climatic changes. The volatile environment makes its communities vulnerable to many hazards. For PNG, both slow-onset processes (drought, frost, salinization, coastal erosion, sea-level rise) and rapid onset events (cyclones, earthquakes, flooding, landslides, tsunamis, storm surges volcanic eruptions) are a reality. The patterns of migration and displacement in PNG have been primarily internal and caused by environmental change, conflict and development. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), a total of 151,000 people were newly displaced between 2008 and 2013, two thirds of which were due to natural hazards. Around 50,000 people were internally displaced by conflict and violence, which are partly linked to environmental degradation and accelerating climate change (ibid.). In addition, large-scale development projects (mining and oil palm) induced the displacement of more than 30,000 people by the early 2000s despite formal agreements for relocation already generally integrated in the development ventures. Case studies of Carteret and Manam islanders reflect government responses to human mobility induced by natural disasters, such as sea-level rise and volcanic eruption. The case studies reveal the sociopolitical dynamics of resettlement: (a) the interaction between traditional and formal authorities in preparing for and responding to disasters; (b) the relocation measures initiated by the national and local authorities of PNG and community organizations for protection of people displaced for environmental reasons; and (c) the local undercurrents between resettled and host communities.