Assessing Impact of Water and Climate-Induced Migration on Women and Girls


Migration and forced displacements are results of stressed resource systems and socio-economic uncertainties. Migration has been a long-standing adaptation measure in various marginal and vulnerable communities; it is often linked to water and climate events. Over 60% of total forced displacements at present are already due to climate and water-related factors, and by 2050 these drivers will force around a billion people to migrate, not by choice but as their only option. There is a severe lack of quantitative information and understanding direct and indirect water and climate-related drivers of migration, limiting effective management options at local, national, regional, and global scales. This calls for an in-depth investigation to impacts of water- and climate – related stressors on human migration and related gender inequities.

At the global scale, data on the water-migration nexus is limited, embedded, or disaggregated, and migration and water interlinkages are under-investigated, particularly the quantitative ones. Also, gender-disaggregated data is often missing from migration assessments, whilst migration and displacement add an extra layer of burden and uncertainty to ”’conventional’ gender roles and responsibilities. Therefore, broadening the outreach and engagement for various stakeholders for water and climate influenced migration assessment and gender-sensitive water management /climate change adaptation planning are key research and development challenges. These challenges remain at the forefront of action at the United Nations on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), primarily SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 6 (water and sanitation needs), and SDG 16 (inclusive policies and effective institutions).

Water- and climate risks differ regionally due to differences in land and water use and environmental conditions, and that these conditions directly or indirectly influence migration/forced displacement. The impact of such crises on different gender groups may vary. Furthermore, social unrest and political instability particularly in the context of water and climate crisis contribute to gender inequities in migration settings. Often gender aspects not underscored or sufficiently evaluated while examining the water-climate-migration-conflict nexus. This Project unpacks this nexus, and related consequences while critically involving women as agents of change to support gender-sensitive policy responses.

The project has the following objectives:

  • To examine spatial and temporal patterns of water-related conflicts and migration
  • To assess gaps and challenges towards addressing the social, economic, and political implications of water- and climate-triggered migration, and potential for gender-focused solutions for climate change adaptation.
  • To analyze how emerging patterns of conflicts and migration impact human development, for groups and individuals living in vulnerable situations – for women and girls in particular– and how these impacts can best be assessed.

To the above stated objectives, UNU-INWEH and University of Kinshasa, DRC are collaborating on the issue of climate and water-driven migration and conflict interlinkages in the Congo basin in Central Africa. This effort, supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC, Canada) focuses primarily on women and girls and aims to identify gender-specific climate adaptation and conflict resolution options.An integrated framework to assess water- and climate-related impacts on human displacement is being designed by employing a mixed tool methodology – primary and secondary data, and qualitative and quantitative indices. The status and trends of these impacts on migration pattern are examined at the basin, national and provincial levels; it is envisaged that project outputs will provide policymakers with practical solutions to complex water-migration-conflict gender interlinkages. Besides, the collaboration/partnerships will be solicited with experts and agencies worldwide to develop and deliver knowledge dissemination programs on water, migration, conflicts, and gender-sensitive water management to a wide range of stakeholders.

Photo by Ky Chung/UN Photo
Photo by Iason Athanasiadis/UN Photo


McMaster University, Canada
United Nations University (UNU CRIS), Belgium
Ottawa University, Canada
Ghent University, Belgium
Centre de recherche en ressources en eau du bassin du Congo (CRREBaC), University of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
WASAG- the Global Framework on Water Scarcity in Agriculture (WASAG), FAO Rome
International Organization on Migration (IOM), Geneva
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Geneva
GenderatWork, Canada
UN Women

Example Outputs of Water and Migration Research


Nidhi Nagabhatla 

Cover photo: Olivier Chassot/UN Photo