IOM Executive Director speaks on climate change, migration and gender responsiveness at Gender Equality Forum

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International Organization for Migration (IOM) Executive Director Amy Pope. (Photo by Robert A. Emmanuel)
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By Robert Andre Emmanuel

[email protected]

Executive Director of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said there needs to be a focus on gender within studies about migration patters on small island developing states.

Speaking on the second day of the Gender Equality Forum, Amy Pope’s message brought into focus that beyond the “beautiful beaches and the warm people, the wonderful food and the island breezes”, climate change continues to wreak havoc on the residents of small islands.

“There is a very complex set of circumstances at play here and what we see increasingly — and maybe the rainstorms of this morning brought it home in full force — is the impact of climate on these regions and the importance of investing in building resilience and solutions for countries in this region.

Pope, who became Director General of the International Organization for Migration in October 2023, made history as the first female to hold the position.

She noted that women are uniquely impacted by climate change and are often left underrepresented and talked about when it comes to migration and migratory patterns.

“They’re the ones worrying at home about the future of their children, they often do not have the same economic earning power as men … which means that we actually risk women and girls being trapped behind in more dangerous circumstances,” she said.

“I’ve seen this for myself; last year I went to the Pacific Island Forum leaders’ event, and I had the chance to sit down with a group of community actors from Cook Islands, and these women were fierce and wise and powerful, but they were not well represented in their parliament.

“They did not have leadership positions in their countries, not because they did not have solutions but because they were excluded from that forum, and it was clear to me from talking to them of their fierce desire to be part of the solution and to find ways to bring their voice into that solution.”

Pope noted that when compared to their male counterparts, women are more likely to support their communities and engage in sending remittances back to their home countries, as men would be more interested in growing wealth.

She noted that over the last two decades more than $800 billion have been transferred through global remittances.

“The power of migration to help drive forward gender equality is actually something that’s often overlooked. In fact, educated women in the Caribbean are actually the majority of migrants; over 54 percent of the highly skilled migrants out of the Caribbean are women, and the numbers actually are quite high, over 60 percent to 67 percent in Antigua.

“So, the question for all of us is how do we leverage that power, the capital, for our communities around the world?” Pope remarked.

Adding to her remarks, the IOM Executive Director noted that her office has begun the process of hiring an expert whose focus will be on small island developing states to make sure that SIDS have their viewpoints impacting policies by the United Nations office.

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