Alice Thomas

Migrant’s Compact Mischaracterized for Political Reasons

Migrant’s Compact Mischaracterized for Political Reasons

The Global Compact for Migration will only be effective if countries move forward with its implementation. However, what is important is that the compact’s 23 objectives embody a comprehensive set of best practices for managing migration in a safe, orderly manner which requires the cooperation of countries of origin, transit and destination.

Confronting the Link Between Climate Change and Migration

Confronting the Link Between Climate Change and Migration

The nations that are attending the Inter-governmental Conference on Migration in Morocco and the UN climate change negotiations in Poland clearly understand what the current U.S. administration does not (or doesn’t want to): Meeting the challenges of international migration and climate change is not a zero-sum game. Refusing to join cooperative efforts to find joint solutions does not make your own problems better, but worse.

Puerto Rico’s Vulnerable Communities Remain Exposed to the Next Storm

Puerto Rico’s Vulnerable Communities Remain Exposed to the Next Storm

A year after Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused catastrophic damage to Puerto Rico, we returned to some of the hardest hit areas to meet with local community leaders, civil society organizations, and affected households where these encounters left us alarmed.

Amid Hurricane María Disaster in Puerto Rico, Strong Community Leaders Emerge

Amid Hurricane María Disaster in Puerto Rico, Strong Community Leaders Emerge

In the face of insufficient assistance from federal and Puerto Rican authorities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, ordinary people have stepped up to become strong community leaders—ultimately strengthening community resilience and self-reliance. Yet they are largely being left out of recovery plans.

Moving Forward to Tackle Climate Displacement after the U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Accord

Moving Forward to Tackle Climate Displacement after the U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Accord

One year ago today, the Trump administration made its ill-advised decision to withdraw the United States from the historic Paris Climate Accord. The decision effectively sidelined the United States on this critical issue, moving the country from a position of international leadership. One year later, the world is moving forward to tackle the climate crisis and related displacement issues.

On Earth Day 2018, Time for a Make-Over?

On Earth Day 2018, Time for a Make-Over?

On April 22, 1970, 20 million people gathered across America marking the first Earth Day and the advent of a global environmental movement. Since then, the United States and other countries have adopted vital international agreements and national laws  to better protect our planet.  But in 2018, does Earth Day need a make-over? Nearly a half century later, the world faces a new threat that will have far more serious implications not just for the Earth but for human beings as well: climate change. 

Six Months After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico's Civil Society Continues to Shore Up the Gaps

Six Months After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico's Civil Society Continues to Shore Up the Gaps

Six months after Hurricane Maria, the slow response to the needs of the Puerto Rican people continues to be woefully slow. The Puerto Rican and federal authorities' failure to adequately respond has been nothing short of a travesty. Alice Thomas writes that if there is a silver lining to this disaster, it is the incredible dedication of Puerto Rico's civil society groups in working toward the recovery of their communities and their most vulnerable neighbors.

US Leads International Disaster Assistance Abroad, So Why are We Failing at Home?

US Leads International Disaster Assistance Abroad, So Why are We Failing at Home?

For the first time in its 38 year history, Refugees International (RI) is conducting a mission to the United States. Over the next week, my colleagues and I will be in Puerto Rico where eight weeks after Hurricane Maria made a direct hit, urgent humanitarian needs remain unmet.

For Thousands Left Homeless by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, Urgent Need to Prevent Long-Term Displacement

For Thousands Left Homeless by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, Urgent Need to Prevent Long-Term Displacement

As the Caribbean, Florida, and Texas face the long road to recovery following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, a window of opportunity exists to mitigate the human displacement created by these large-scale disasters and to build resilience to future events. These two priorities should inform how the United States is responding to these types of disasters. This blog outlines some important lessons that must inform the hurricane response in the future if we are going to keep pace with the increasing impacts of climate change impacts on population displacement:

Hundreds of Thousands of Drought-Impacted Somalis Flee to Cities

Hundreds of Thousands of Drought-Impacted Somalis Flee to Cities

Somalia is now well into its third consecutive season of a severe drought that, in the last seven months alone, has forced more than 760,000 people to flee their homes in search of food and water. Most come from areas controlled by Al-Shabaab or other non-state armed groups, places where the government and humanitarian agencies have limited to no access. The town of Baidoa, retaken from Al-Shabaab in 2012 and now marginally under state control, has become the only means of survival for much of the rural population across the country’s drought-stricken, south central region.

On World Refugee Day, More Action is needed on Climate-Related Displacement

On World Refugee Day, More Action is needed on Climate-Related Displacement

War and conflict are no longer the primary drivers of displacement and humanitarian crises. More extreme weather and other climate change impacts are increasingly playing a role. In 2016 alone, 24 million people were forced from their homes by weather-related disasters, far more than were displaced by conflict. Meanwhile, more frequent and protracted droughts, especially in poor and unstable countries in Africa and the Middle East, are undermining food security, causing people to migrate in order to survive, and fueling pre-existing social and ethnic tensions.

UN Moves Forward on Task Force to Protect So-Called "Climate Refugees"

UN Moves Forward on Task Force to Protect So-Called "Climate Refugees"

Nations will soon meet in Marrakesh to discuss progress on the landmark UN Climate Change Agreement reached in Paris last year. On the agenda will be the increasing impacts of climate change on displacement and migration, including a decision to establish a “Climate Displacement Task Force.” 

Myanmar's Disaster-Displaced Communities Face an Uncertain Future

Myanmar's Disaster-Displaced Communities Face an Uncertain Future

In July 2015, unprecedented monsoon rains, fueled by a tropical cyclone, caused flash floods that washed away San San Aye’s former home, along with 83 others in her village. More than one and half million people across the country were displaced in the disaster.

Has Zimbabwe Reached a Tipping Point?

Has Zimbabwe Reached a Tipping Point?

Driving across the parched landscape of Matabeleland North in western Zimbabwe, it’s hard to imagine that this country was once the breadbasket of Southern Africa. The annual rainy season ended in March, and this is supposed to be the most food secure time of the year, when granaries and stomachs are full. But Zimbabwe is in the grips of a second year of drought, exacerbated by El Niño, which has left an estimated 4.5 million people – nearly half of the rural population – without sufficient food.

Humanitarian crises & climate change: What did the WHS Achieve?

Humanitarian crises & climate change: What did the WHS Achieve?

Earlier this week, some 9,000 participants from around the world gathered in Istanbul for the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS). The Summit was the brainchild of outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who, during his tenure, has witnessed a humanitarian system strained to the point of breaking.

Paris Climate Deal: It's Time to Get Real

Paris Climate Deal: It's Time to Get Real

This Friday, President Obama and other world leaders will be meeting in New York to sign the historic UN climate change accord reached in Paris last November. With 130 countries standing ready with pens poised – including the world’s two largest emitters, the U.S. and China – there is much cause for celebration. But with numerous scientific studies showing that climate change is happening faster than anticipated, and more still questioning whether the commitments under the Paris agreement will get us where we need to be in order to avoid “dangerous interference with the climate system,” it’s time to get real about whether we’re doing enough to prepare and adapt our communities, sources of income, and ways of life to a warmer, more disaster-prone, and insecure world.  

Bringing Climate Displacement to the Fore

Bringing Climate Displacement to the Fore

Close to two hundred governments are meeting in Paris over the next two weeks to hammer out an agreement on climate change. Global leaders are attempting to strike a deal that will reduce global carbon emissions and limit global warming to 2 °C by the end of the century. With growing evidence not only that climate change is happening, but also that the 2 °C may not be enough to avert climate change’s worst impacts, the stakes could not be higher.  

How to Protect People Fleeing Climate Change? Governments Agree on a Way Forward

How to Protect People Fleeing Climate Change? Governments Agree on a Way Forward

As record numbers of people around the globe continue to flee war and persecution, there has been growing public concern about whether the world is ready to protect millions more who, in the decades to come, may be uprooted by floods, storms, sea level rise, and other climate change effects. While the issue of what to do about “climate refugees” is by no means new, groundbreaking progress was made last week when more than 110 governments met in Geneva to endorsea “Protection Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displacement in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change. While the event received little fanfare, its importance should not be underestimated. Many times more people displaced each year by floods, storms and other extreme weather events than are uprooted by conflict, and climate change is expected only to increase these numbers.

The Pope’s Environmental Encyclical: Making it About Poverty, Not Politics

The Pope’s Environmental Encyclical: Making it About Poverty, Not Politics

All eyes are on Washington this week as Pope Francis makes his historic first trip to the U.S. This morning, he’ll address lawmakers on Capitol Hill, marking the first time a Pope has addressed a joint meeting of Congress. Climate change is undoubtedly one if the issues on his agenda. Earlier this year the pope released his Laudito Si encyclical in which he laid out the moral case for greater protection of the environment, natural resources, and the Earth's climate.