International conference on environmental migration in West Africa

Environmental Migration: the state of the research in West Africa

An international conference organised by the Geography Department of the University Ouaga I Pr Joseph KI-ZERBO (Burkina Faso) and the Hugo Observatory of the University of Liège (Belgium), with the support of the Walloon Agency for Air and Climate


Over the course of the last two decades, the research on environmental migration has been expanded considerably. West Africa plays a pivotal role in the development of this research areas.

At the same time, political initiatives have multiplied: in March 2015, 187 Member States of the UN have adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This framework explicitly acknowledged the need for population displacement to be an integral part of disaster management.

In October 2015, 109 States adopted the Protection Agenda of the Nansen Initiative, twhich seeks to better protect the rights of those displaced across borders by disasters. Moreover, in December 2015 at COP21, the Paris Agreement instituted a taskforce to address migration and displacements related to climate change.

In November 2016, the Hugo Conference gathered nearly 300 researchers, academics and institutions in Liège (Belgium) to discuss environmental migration and displacement. COP22 in Marrackech has enacted the implementation of the Paris Agreement and reaffirmed the need for migration policies to account for the climate and environmental dimension.

In November 2017, COP23 will be held in Bonn, Germany, while being chaired by Fiji, a small island state that is strongly affected by the impacts of climate change.

Though significant breakthrough was made on the front of climate policy in 2015 with the Paris Agreement, it has not materialized into an actual, meaningful reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and every month that goes by seems to break yet another heat record. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis at the borders of Europe and elsewhere around the world seems to deepen every day, with no solution in sight.

Thus the year 2017 represents a test of reality. During the past decades, progress has been made with regard to the understanding of the interactions between environmental changes and migration flows and the agenda setting of these issues. But knowledge gaps remain significant, with regard to the quantitative assessments of migration flows, the impacts on communities of origin and of destination, to the theoretical framing of the phenomenon, to name just a few of these gaps.

West Africa, situated between the Sahara and the see, is confronted with several types of climatic and environmental stress, both slow (desertification, erosion deforestation, ect.) and sudden onset (droughts, floods, heat waves, ect.). These disruptions increasingly lead to population displacement. Environmental stress, combined with significant vulnerability, challenges the development of West African countries and can pose a risk to the security and stability of the subregion.


The issue of environmental migration has recently become an important and indispensable research area with regards to the consequences of climate change and environmental degradation for the social and economic conditions of affected populations. This event, that aims to create a regional dynamic of specialized research on the subject, will provide an opportunity to establish a network for the study of environmental migration in West Africa. It will be the first regional network of the International Association for the Study of Environmental migration, which has been created in Liège in November 2016 at the Hugo Conference.

Moreover, the conference will seek to facilitate networking and promote common projects between African scholars and foreign researchers who work on West Africa.

The conference is jointly organised by the Department of Geography at the Universty Ouaga I Pr Joseph KI-ZERBO (Bukina Faso) and the Hugo Observatory of the University of Liège (Belgique). This conference is part of the Capacity Building Program to Improve the Knowledge of Climate and Environmental Migration in West Africa. This programme, financed by the Walloon Agency for Air and Climate, aims to gather social scientists and climate and environmental scholars, as these two research spheres remain, too often, separated from each other. Furthermore, the conference aims to analyse the multiple interactions between human mobility, climate and environmental change, and development policies in West Africa.

Here you can find further information on the call for abstracts, open until Friday July 14 2017.

Key highlights of the conference

  • Major gathering of scholars, civil society and decision makers on issues that will be key for COP23, which will be held from 6 to 17 November 2017 in Bonn;
  • Connecting researchers that work in West Africa and on West Africa;
  • Opportunity to participate in the constitution of the first-ever West African research network specifically dedicated to these issues;
  • Mentoring session for master students and PhD candidates: information on possible career paths, collective publications, participation in international research projects, ect;
  • Numerous interactions with practitioners and key organisations active in the domain of environmental migration;
  • Cash price of 200.000 FCFA for the best paper and 50.000 FCFA for the best poster of the conference;
  • Possibility to be selected for a publication;
  • Opportunity to have your paper published in the Working Papers series of the Hugo Observatory, or in a special issue of the journal GEO-ECO-TROP (international review of geology, geography and tropical ecology) for the best papers.

Scientific committee

Geography Department of the University Ouaga I Pr Joseph KI-ZERBO : Dr. Edwige Nikiema

The Hugo Observatory: Dr. François Gemenne

The programme of the conferene will aim to analyse the multiple interactions between human mobility, climate and environmental change, and development policies in West Africa. The scientific committee of the conference will therefore select presentation proposals on the different aspects of these interactions: on climate and environmental migration theories and models, on the related political processes and on empirical studies as well as critiques on the natural and social sciences. While not an exhaustive list, the presentations should related to the following themes:

  • dimensions of social vulnerability;
  • forced immobility and trapped populations;
  • land issues (land tenure issues, land and resource grabbing, etc.);
  • borders and security;
  • the relation between migration, environment and public health;
  • natural disasters, disaster management and evacuations;
  • environmental and climate data supporting the study of migration and population displacement;
  • climate science, climate models and tipping points related with the study of migration and population displacement;
  • legal and political perspectives;
  • the interrelation between demography and environment.

Abstracts can be submitted here, until Friday July 14, 2017. The authors of the selected abstracts will be informed in July.

Add Comment