Caritas Internationalis Calls for “special protection status” for Climate Change Victims

Credit: Caritas Internationalis

As the International Migration Review Forum (IMFR) gets underway, the leadership of the global confederation of Catholic relief agencies, Caritas Internationalis (CI), is calling on the international community to grant a special protection status to people and communities displaced due to climate change.

In a Tuesday, May 17 report, the CI Secretary General said that the entity is pushing for legal protection for “people and communities displaced due to climate change” and favorable conditions for people “to stay where they live”.

“On the occasion of the International Migration Review Forum (IMFR), Caritas Internationalis asked for a special protection status to be granted to people and communities displaced due to climate change’s adverse effects,” Aloysius John has been quoted as saying in the report.

Mr. John added, “The Confederation also urges to create conditions for enabling people to stay where they live, especially by enhancing communities’ resilience to climate change – through prevention, training, and capacity building – and investing in long-term strategies founded on social protection and cohesion.”

“As the Holy Father underlined already in Laudato Si’ Encyclical, there is an incredibly rising number of people that are forced to migrate within States and across-borders due to climate-induced vulnerabilities, including those related to food insecurity, lack of livelihood options, and human rights crises,” the CI Secretary General said in the May 17 report. 


He added, “With this event, we wish to draw the attention to the structural drivers of today’s migration, which are increasingly mixed and forced, and also reflect on the legal protection gaps, which still exist.”

“Building community resilience and alternative development patterns has become a central endeavor of our Caritas organizations,” Mr. John added.

He further said, “It is likewise crucial to continue strengthening the link between humanitarian aid, development, and peace by investing in long-term strategies founded on social protection and cohesion.”

The IMRF that was created by the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in 2018 serves as the primary intergovernmental global platform for Member States to discuss and share progress on the implementation of all aspects of the Global Compact, including the relationship with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The May 17-20 IMRF sessions are taking place under the auspices of the United Nations General Assembly.

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In the May 17 CI report, the leadership of the over 160-member confederation is urging the international community to “take into consideration how climate change interacts with other migration drivers such as natural disasters and conflicts.”

“Therefore, strategic coordination at the UN level is urgently needed to better coordinate the different areas of work to address the protection needs of climate and environmentally displaced people more comprehensively and holistically,” CI officials say in the report.

They add, “Caritas Confederation has been actively engaging in addressing the root causes of forced migration and welcoming, assisting, integrating and advocating for the human rights protection of migrants and displaced people all throughout their migration journey and regardless of their migration status.”

“Success stories in addressing the root causes and multiple drivers of migration, from Zimbabwe to El Salvador” is expected to be presented during the IMRF.

In the May 17 report, CI officials said, “Caritas’ experience of building community resilience to climate change is based on prevention and preparedness, strengthening disaster risk reduction through early warning systems and anticipatory actions, and capacity building by enhancing and valuing local leadership.”


“On the occasion of the International Migration Review Forum, Caritas Internationalis reiterates its call to allocate substantiate funds to invest in projects that enable people to stay where they live and promulgate legal protection for people and communities compelled to leave their homes in the context of climate change and environmental degradation through clear policies and concrete mechanisms to implement and monitor them,” they added.

CI officials further said, “There is not yet a comprehensive legal framework addressing the challenges of these people, and the definition and type of protection granted to them are still under discussion.” 

To protect the human rights of environmental migrants, CI leadership also “calls decision makers and States to take measures to promote access to essential services for these populations and take into account their vulnerable situation, in particular for women, minors, and indigenous peoples.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.