GAO-19-166: Climate Change as a Driver of Migration

Speeches Shim

Report to Congressional Requesters

GAO-19-166 - Published: Jan 17, 2019. Publicly Released: Jan 17, 2019.

Climate change may increase the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, which could drive people around the world from their homes.

We found that, while the State Department, USAID, and DOD haven’t focused on the link between climate change and migration, State identified migration as a risk in one of its climate change risk assessments in early 2017.

However, State later changed its approach and no longer provides clear guidance to its staff on how to assess climate change risks. This may prevent it from identifying and addressing climate change as a factor in human migration.

We recommended State provide its staff with this guidance.

Comments from the U.S. Agency for International Development

December 18, 2018

David Gootnick
Director, International Affairs and Trade
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20548

Re: CLIMATE CHANGE: Activities of Selected Agencies to Address Potential Impact on Global Migration (GAO-19-166)

Dear Mr. Gootnick:

I am pleased to provide the fo1mal response of the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to the draft report of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) entitled, "CLIMATE CHANGE: Activities of Selected Agencies to Address Potential Impact on Global Migration" (GAO-19-166).

USAID appreciates the draft report's recognition of our Agency's ongoing efforts to support governments, civil society and the private sector in our partner countries to build resilience and manage risk that, if left unaddressed, could lead to costly humanitarian disasters and related displacement or migration. As the repo1t indicate s, the relationship between migration decisions and climate and extreme weather events is complex, mediated by a host of economic, political, social, and demographic factors.

USAID works to build local and national capacity to address this potential area of risk through four types of programs or initiative s: (1) humanitarian assistance and response to disasters, for which USAID serves the U.S. Government's lead coordinator; (2) programs that reduce the risk of disasters, such as by supporting the development of early-warning systems and response capacity; (3) effo1is to build resilience to climaterelated shocks and stresses, such as through the Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through A1arket Expansion activity in Ethiopia; and, (4) institutional requirements that protect taxpayer investments across USAID's development portfolio by assessing, addressing, and adaptively managing risks that may be anticipated to arise from weatherand climate-related events and conditions.

In addition, USAID's Transformation, which has proposed to create three new Bureaus (for Resilience and Food Security, Conflict-Prevention and Stabilization, and Humanitarian Affairs), under the leadership of a new Associate Administrator for Relief, Response, and Resilience, will organize and elevate our work on the resilience-to-relief continuum, enhancing our ability to anticipate future crises, and work with public and private actors in partner countries to put in place the conditions to avoid or manage them.

I am transmitting this letter and the enclosed USAID comments for inclusion in GAO's final repo1t. Thank you or the opportunity to respond to the draft report, and for the courtesies extended by your staff while conducting this engagement. We appreciate the opp01tunity to participate in the complete and thorough evaluation of our risk-management and resilience- building activities, and how they affect global migration.

Angelique M. Crumbly
Acting Assistant Administrator
Bureau for Management

Enclosure: a/s


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) would like to thank the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) for the opportunity to respond to this draft report. We appreciate the extensive work of the GAO engagement team.

The report contains no recommendation for USAID's action.

We are grateful for the report's recognition of USAID's programs that address the complex relationships among migration, disasters, climate and extreme weather-related events. These include the following:

  • USAID's role as the lead Federal coordinator for international disaster assistance. The proposed Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance would advance our goal of delivering food and non-food international disaster aid seamlessly, which would serve the U.S. Government's foreign-policy interests and the people in need of humanitarian assistance more effectively. Specifically, the new Bureau would strengthen USAID's role in disasters overseas by consolidating core capabilities- including technical, policy, and operational expertise-into one, seamless entity, well-positioned to achieve maximum efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability, as well as elevate and strengthen USAID's lead humanitarian voice in the U.S. Government interagency, and with all international partners.
  • USAID's programs to support the ability of other countries to withstand severe weather-related events. These activities, known as Disaster-Risk Reduction (DRR), are aimed at preventing new risk, reducing existing risk, and managing residual risks, all of which contribute to strengthening resilience and helping nations on their Journey to Self-Reliance. DRR investments include early-warning systems to notify vulnerable populations of imminent disasters; training programs for first-responders; changes to policies on disasterresponse and risk-reduction at the national level; and strengthening shelters and other settlements to help withstand hazards, such as hurricanes or earthquakes.
  • USAID's activities that support communities in building capacity and resilience to climate-related shocks and stresses. Examples include the Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through Market Expansion activity in Ethiopia, which has been supporting pastoralist communities to manage the risk of drought, while building selfreliance, enhancing food security, and promoting private enterprise; as well as USAID's recent activity for Climate-Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods in Bangladesh; and an activity in Mali that strengthens the capacity of the country's national meteorological agency. We appreciate that the GAO highlighted these activities in the report.
  • USAID's requirement, codified in Automated Directives Series Chapter 201, that nearly all new development strategies, projects, and activities assess climate-related risks, and that those with moderate or high levels of risk address and manage those risks adaptively. The objective of the management of climate risk is to ensure that development results and U.S. taxpayer investments are resilient to extreme weather and climate impacts. In Fiscal Year 2017, USAID assessed the climate risk of $6.3 billion of planned investments; as a result, many projects have incorporated approaches that will improve service-delivery, while enhancing sustainability and resilience.

In addition, we note that the proposed Transformation of USAID includes a proposal to elevate our work on building resilience under a new Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (BRFS), which would incorporate our climate-adaptation team. This new Bureau would better position USAID to integrate planning for risks, such as those highlighted in this rep01t, into broader eff01is to build resilience in our partner countries. The new BRFS would work with two other redesigned Bureaus -Conflict-Prevention and Stabilization, and Humanitarian Affairs - under the leadership of a new Associate Administrator for Relief, Response, and Resilience. This would position the Agency to elevate our work on the issues that arise along the resilience- to-relief continuum, and enhance our ability to anticipate future crises and work with governments, civil society and the private sector in partner countries to put in place the conditions to avoid or manage shocks. Complementing the climate-adaptation and resilience effo1ts of BRFS, other climate-related technical-leadership functions, including the management of climate-related risks, would reside in the proposed Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI).

The answer to addressing and managing the complex set of factors that lead people to migrate is building safer, more resilient, and more prosperous societies, as well as responding effectively to disasters when they do occur. The programs described above contribute to the ability of USAID and the wider U.S. Government to do this work.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - 4:15pm