The effects of desertification, however, are not limited to dryland areas. "As livelihoods deteriorate and climate extremes manifest themselves with increasing frequency and severity, more and more people will choose to migrate," says Dr. Adeel. "This mass movement will itself have serious environmental impacts."
Janos Bogardi, Director of the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security in Bonn, says estimates today show migrants uprooted primarily by environmental stressors now exceed the number of political refugees. Unlike victims of political upheaval or violence, however, who have access through governments and international organizations to such assistance as financial grants, food, tools, shelter, schools and clinics, "environmental refugees" are not yet recognized in world conventions.
"There is an overwhelming expectation that the number of people on the move due to environmental reasons will grow," says Dr. Bogardi, active in UN work to re-conceptualise and realign migration-related efforts. The number of people at risk of displacement due to severe desertification exceeds 135 million, according to published estimates.
"We are at the beginning of an unavoidably long process. Yet, the aim must be clear: to create recognition in order to assist a forcefully emerging new category of migrants."
Dr. Bogardi and UNU-EHS associates propose three categories of environmental migrants / refugees, classifications that would help form corresponding assistance strategies: Environmentally-motivated migrants; environmentally-forced migrants, and;environmental refugees (potentially including disaster refugees).
The environmentally-motivated migrant may leave a steadily deteriorating environment in order to avoid the worse; the env
Contact: Terry Collins
United Nations University