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Climate Vs Migration: Sustaining a Secure Future

Last Saturday, applause from Paris echoed around the world as news about an accord on climate change was reached. Hailed as ambitious, fair, legally binding and balanced, the proponents of the accord cheered loudly. Since then, critiques of the climate accord have also surfaced, calling it weak, in favour of developed countries and non-enforceable. Most glaring of the many weaknesses is the ambiguous nature of financing for mitigation, resilience and adaptation. Though indicated as $100 bn per year from 2020, the commitment is non-binding and non-enforceable.
A couple of months ago, in the UN General Assembly in New York, heads of states and governments signed off on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as targets for human development over the next fifteen years, Agenda 2030. These ambitious commitments ask governments of all countries  South & North  to create policies and programmes aimed at achieving these goals.

Therefore, the world community of nations and governments has now accomplished a hugely significant and historically unique set of goals, targets and commitments for the long-term survival, well-being and happiness of peoples of the world. Viewed in this sense, these two sets of agreements, under the United Nations umbrella, have raised hopes for mutually accountable and accommodative global governance practices as 2015 comes to an end.
Parallel to these hopeful developments, the world has also been witnessing a widespread and frightening increase in violence in everyday life, exacerbated by violence perpetuated by terrorist groups like the Taliban, Al Qaeda and IS. During the same period in 2015, thousands of innocent people have been massacred in Beirut, Syria, Yemen, Mali, Nigeria, Afghanistan, India, France and USA. As a consequence of these multiple wars, hundreds of thousands of families have been displaced and forced to migrate. Today, there are many more millions of refugees in the world than any time before in history, not even during the Second World War. The trail of refugees from Syria into Europe, and Libya into Mali, has continued unabated.

As the developed world in Europe and North America deals with this twin phenomena of terrorist violence and migrants, those societies are debating serious questions about the future of their culture, social fabric and economic well-being. Given economic recession in Europe and youth unemployment, looking after migrants and refugees is no longer readily acceptable. Protecting their societies from such ‘attacks and infiltration’ has begun to gain majority support in many countries of Europe.

Many OECD countries have begun to publicly shift their policies of international official development assistance (ODA) towards security and migration. They want to create an open-ended provision for ‘diverting’ ODA towards expenditures incurred in looking after new migrants. The Swedish government has already announced that up to 25% of its ODA will be used to look after Syrian migrants into the country. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, London and California have further strengthened the demand for enhancing domestic security investments.

The global economy is slowing down as growth in China decelerates. Economic prospects for many OECD countries do not look very promising. As pressure on moving finances to security and migrants increases in 2016, how will the financing of twin accords on climate and SDGs materialise? If national and international finance required to support the ambitious agenda of climate accords and SDGs is not readily available in the next decade, it may weaken the implementation of these global commitments. If migration and security concerns and investments ‘crowd out’ available finance for investment in climate and SDGs, it may create a vicious cycle of further violence and migration worldwide.
India is sharply facing this dilemma today. The new Human Development Report keeps India at the rank of 130, clearly highlighting the urgent need for reforming delivery of investments towards basic human development in the country. Yet, terror threats and required security investments may weaken available investments in the former. India knows that growing youth unemployment, especially amongst tribals, dalits and minorities, can further strengthen the vicious cycle of violence in everyday life.

It is at this juncture that leaders in India from all walks of life needs to assert that climate action and implementation of SDGs is a part of furthering development, security and peace in the country, and its neighbourhood.

Dr Rajesh Tandon                                               
Founder-President, PRIA, New Delhi

Photo by Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon, United States (Another world is on her way) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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