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I am thrilled to be here with you for this important discussion on cities at the nexus of climate change, migration, and displacement. The Biden-Harris Administration has identified climate change as an immediate priority and urgent national security issue. Secretary Blinken and others aptly call climate change an existential issue – it affects all of humanity.

The 2021 White House Report on the Impact of Climate Change on Migration outlines U.S. government efforts to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to climate-related migration and forced displacement. This report recognized that climate-related migration and displacement are already contributing to record numbers of people on the move both within and across borders, with significant impacts on cities. It outlines the need to scale support to migrants, refugees, stateless persons, and sending and receiving communities.

The cross-cutting nature of these issues makes it imperative that we foster coordination across scientific and humanitarian fields, from the international to the local level, in order to achieve sustainable solutions to the mounting challenges we face. So how do we move forward?

For its part, the United States supports safe, regular, and humane migration management with respect for appropriate legal and procedural protections for all migrants, and with safeguards for migrants in particular situations of vulnerability, especially children. This includes promoting fair labor practices for migrant workers. In looking at labor migration, the United States believes there is a range of potential economic and social benefits from migration, for migrants as well as for sending and receiving communities. Especially in communities facing acute labor shortages, regular labor migration pathways can be life-saving alternatives to the perils of irregular migration.

The United States is committed to providing safe, legal pathways for those in need of international protection and for those seeking to work. For example, U.S. funding has supported a global ethical recruitment program that strengthens migrant worker protections in the hotel and tourism industry. Last year, the United States contributed $5 million to the United Nations Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) to support programs in the Americas and around the world focused on climate-affected vulnerable migrants.

The United States is also working toward increasing resilience both to enable people to stay and to support communities, often in urban areas, where migrants are arriving. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience—better known as PREPARE—we’re working with partners to strengthen climate information services and early warning systems to equip people and institutions with the information they need to make sound decisions; build capacity to mainstream adaptation into policies, programs, and budgets; and help unlock finance to support national, sub-national, and local climate adaptation action.

We have learned from over two decades of working on climate change adaptation that it is vital to engage cities and communities in this work. Mayors are at the front lines of responding to climate change and providing support to the communities impacted by it. Cities are demonstrating innovation and leadership to meet the challenges of the climate crisis, including through the integration of newcomers and the protection of migrants in situations of vulnerability such as asylum seekers, women, children, and survivors of trafficking and exploitation.

As we work together to address these urgent issues, it will be important to identify efficient financing mechanisms, to improve information to anticipate and understand how climate change impacts migration and displacement, to strengthen collaboration among stakeholders, and to amplify the voices and participation of affected migrants and their communities.

With those initial ideas on the table, I’d like to hand the floor to my dear colleague Mileydi Guilarte for the USAID perspective.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future