Headline issue

This paper informs the development community about the effects of climate change on migration patterns within and out of developing countries. It concentrates on the economic aspects of migration and on information that is relevant for the six semi-arid countries that are the focus of the PRISE (Pathways to Resilience in Semi-Arid Economies) project: Burkina Faso, Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

Policy intervention is required to reduce potential negative impacts in both the sending and receiving region. Badly managed migration is associated with high economic, social and psychological costs.

Key findings

To ensure effective migration choices and a good management of the wider socio-economic effects, policy-makers should:

  • Provide sufficient information about the costs and benefits of migrating, including psychological and social, along with more clarity about alternative adaptation options.
  • Release credit constraints, present in all PRISE countries and in particular in Senegal and Tajikistan, to offset the up-front costs incurred by potential migrants, particularly high in areas with poor transportation infrastructure.
  • Improve institutional quality to ensure the incentives to migrate are not reduced, in particular in the context of land tenure security when people are not able to sell their land or are not confident of reclaiming it upon return.
  • Define the legal status of environmental migrants, for example, through a process led by the UN or UNHCR, in order to give people certainty about their legal situation.
  • Put in place safeguards against distress migration, for example in the event of conflict, which can force people to choose sub-optimal migration strategies, leading to maladaptation.
  • Support the areas affected by outward migration by promoting links between migrants and their region of origin; “managed retreat” from severely affected regions may be a last resort if they become inhospitable.
  • Support the absorptive capacity of the receiving jurisdictions, in particular urban labour markets and public services, to manage the socio-economic implications of the arrival of migrants in a new destination.
  • Direct migrants away from environmentally vulnerable areas where they move to for different reasons, as is the case in Senegal where more than 40 per cent of new migrant populations are located in high risk flood zones.


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