Migration with dignity: a challenge to human values

Climate change is a real threat not only to people’s daily lives, but also to the very situation of some countries such as the Insular States, that also face complexity when planning for long-term development.

On Wednesday 8th took place the side event on Displacement, Human Mobility and Climate Change, featuring the presence of the Former President of Kiribati, Anote Tong who has been working on the issue for more than 10 years. He mentioned that “at the beginning it was difficult to start working on this issue since it is not easy to tell people that their homes are going to disappear”.

Anote Tong also mentioned that they are not in favor of the concept of “climate refugees” or “climate migration” that has been driven for years by the international community, since that places them in a position of victims. For this reason, they have developed the concept of “migration with dignity” that presupposes a proactive attitude in relation to the problem.
We interviewed Tirizia Kireua, a young woman from Kiribati who is participating in the climate negotiations through the Global South Scholarship, about the concept of migration with dignity. She told us that all people in Kiribati want “to ensure that children have quality education so that if we have to leave our island and resettle in another place as a result of climate change, then we would not be climate refugees but we will be able to use our qualifications and skills to have good jobs”.

In addition, we asked her about the possibility of moving or migrating to another place and she commented: “I personally think that if our island is going to disappear in the nearest future then it’s common sense that we will have to accept the fact of being relocated to another one, but we don’t want to be climate refugees so that is why we are really trying our best to achieve quality education as our security when the time comes for us to migrate to another country, to escape from our sinking island”.

This issue is and continues to be controversial. It became part of what is called “Loss and Damage” and is found in Article 8 of the Paris Agreement, which has already been already ratified by 169 Parties out of 197. The risks are as high as the costs that climate change can leave on the ground, so Anote Tong asked the audience: “When the time comes, will they take us to the boat or will they let us drown?”.

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