The science is crystal clear that humanity currently faces triple planetary crises: climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. One of the main issues of concern in relation to responses to these planetary crises is understanding how society will respond and change. The management of human mobility in the context of changes in natural resources is critical.

    The report

      Human Migration and Natural Resources: Global Assessment of an adaptive complex system

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      As seen in the recent war in Ukraine and earlier wars and crises within the past decade in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Venezuela the management of migration remains urgent, complex and sensitive policy question. The recent floods in Pakistan have also demonstrated how internal displacement from natural disasters can cause acute resource stress with loss of agricultural crops and livelihoods linked therein.

      This International Resource Panel report, “Human Migration and Natural Resources: Global assessment of an adaptive complex system” contributes to the global discussion by moving the discussion of natural resources and migration from being based primarily around environmental determinism to one which recognizes the co-evolutionary nature of society and the environment. The report covers the conceptual and empirical connections between resources and human mobility, the role and significant influence that natural resources exert both directly and indirectly on people’s needs, abilities and motivations to migrate – either temporarily or permanently. The report advocates focusing on the complex adaptive system where resource drivers and impacts of human mobility are considered as part of connected system of feedback loops. Adopting such a system understanding of the linkages between natural resources and mobility the with the inclusion of the socio-psychological, financial, demographic, environmental and political dimensions can help policymakers identify points of entry for national and local policy to ensure the wellbeing of those affected by natural resource stress and shocks and the natural resources that they depend on.

      This report makes it clear that natural resources define the impact scale and scope of forced displacement for the most vulnerable populations. Voluntary migration can be triggered by resource rushes and can also create a safety net in some specific ecological contexts as well. Well-designed policies within the resource-mobility nexus can enhance the possibility of adaptation, greater sustainability of resources, and socioeconomic and environmental resilience. As the global community considers ways of operationalizing international efforts to govern human mobility through instruments such as the Global Compact on Migration, this report provides a well-researched compendium of tangible guidance.

      Suggested citation: United Nations Environment Programme (2023). Human Migration and Natural Resources: Global assessment of an adaptive complex system. Nairobi, Kenya.

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      Did you know?

      Globally, the top 200 recent hydropower developments (2000-2018) are estimated to have displaced between 900,000 and 2 million people (mostly in Asia),as well as giving rise to substantial land-use change since the start of the century.


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