DECCMA report and take home messages from the TransRe conference

by Ricardo Safra de Campos, Helen Adams, Attila Lazar

The TransRe conference (Connecting the Dots: Migration. Environment. Resilience, 29 – 30 September 2016, Bonn, Germany) was organised to mark the half-way point in the TransRe project: Building resilience through translocality. Climate change, migration and social resilience of rural communities in Thailand. Over 60 participants from various countries engaged in highly stimulating debates. A really interesting range of research on the links between climate change migration and resilience were presented from multiple perspectives. The range of presentations included talks on meta-theoretical considerations, empirical evidence, governance and policies, methodological approaches and linkages between migration and changes in socio-ecological systems. In the conference opening speech, Koko Warner, from the UN Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC), highlighted the need to expand the discussion on migration, adaptation, environmental change, and social resilience beyond the confines of academia given the wider relevance of these topics.

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Three DECCMA researchers presented their ongoing work at the conference. Helen Adams (King’s College London) called for a closer examination of the definition of success when thinking about the role of migration as an adaptation to climate change. Ricardo Safra de Campos (University of Exeter) presented initial findings on the mutually beneficial relationship between adaptation and migration intensity at household level. Attila Lazar (University of Southampton) colleagues introduced the conceptual design of the innovative and comprehensive approach taken by DECCMA to understanding migration and adaptation employing Bayesian Belief Network model. In addition to the oral presentations, Tuhin Ghosh (Jadavpur University) submitted a poster on the characteristics of migration in climate hotspots focusing on Satjelia island in the Indian Sundarban Delta.

The conference showed how well placed the DECCMA project is to contribute to current debates on migration, adaptation and climate change. Several of the talks emphasized the need to consider spatial and temporal scales, consider migration as one of many processes ongoing as a result of wider processes of development, and to, naturally, consider the multiple sites of migration. DECCMA by definition of its sending area and receiving area surveys takes a translocal approach. As such there are opportunities for collaboration and synergy. There are other international projects on migration – TransRe itself, and others such as Migration, Environment and Climate Change: Evidence for Policy (MECLEP) at the University of Liege.

The perspective of translocality propels the environment-migration nexus debate forward to explicitly recognise the complexity and richness of mobile human existence, and move beyond a focus of linear migration trajectories of people escaping negative climate change impacts. Several presenters suggested that upcoming studies should also focus on both immobile and trapped populations. Other important discussions on conceptual challenges around successful migration, and migration as adaptation were also part of the agenda of the conference. More specifically, the talks, and especially the key note from Jonathan Rigg, highlighted the need to keep migration as one of the many socioeconomic and demographic transformations that are occurring in rural environments, and which tie to wider development debates. These themes will continue to be investigated by DECCMA as the project advances.

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