Planet on the move: Reimagining conservation at the intersection of migration, environmental change and conflict


“. . . I know a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going, where I have come from is disappearing . . .”

– Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth

Row of three photosPhoto: Credit from right to left: Mirali Shukla, Fonna Forman & Jonathan Maier, Nicolò Filippo Rosso,Nicolò Filippo Rosso

At a Glance

Human and other species migration and displacement are increasing and predicted to continue in large numbers, reports estimate 50-700 million people will be displaced by land degradation, including climate change by 2050.  These movements of people and other species are linked to environmental change and conflict, both as consequences (people/other species moving away from violence or degraded ecosystems), as well as causes (migrations causing environmental degradation or fueling drivers of conflict), all of which are highly complex interactions.


Planet on the Move is a publication from the IUCN CEESP Task Force on Migration, Environmental Change and Conflict.  

The Task Force is a collaborative space for migration-linked practitioners across multiple global agencies, NGOs, conservation practitioners and academics. The initiative was started in 2019 at the first Environmental Peacebuilding Conference in Irvine, California. 

The report is a discussion document with a call to action. Its goal is to stimulate thinking, policy, and funding for innovative programs and solutions around the expected increases in both human and wild species migration and displacement in light of environmental change and conflict. The report identifies a number of solutions and approaches available to actors in how they might perceive and frame migration events. The report aims to bring together multiple disciplines and stakeholders that have a bearing on migration, conservation, development, humanitarian support, law and policy, conflict-sensitive approaches and environmental peacebuilding. Its primary target audience includes conservation actors, policy-makers and donors.


photo of young person in nature with cowsPhoto: Jason Houston


Human and all other species’ migrations have subsequent environmental and social impacts across the migration arc – that is, in places of origin, transit, and destination – which can include further environmental change, violent conflict, impoverishment, new forms of displacement or if holistically approached, can support environmental peacebuilding, conservation and sustainable development.

Holistic approaches to understanding human and all other species migrations and their interplay in the context of global environmental change are crucial. We are now able to integrate many forms of data more quickly than ever before and thus can combine local knowledge with historical records, big data, and remote sensing to improve understanding and management.


Focus of the report


Part I:  Migration, environmental change and conflict – 

Presents updated figures at the global level and unpacks the complexities of migration and the migration arc linked to laws and policies.


“Holistic approaches to understanding human and other species migrations and their interplay in the context of global environmental change are crucial.”


  • Movement is an important part of the repertoire of adaptive strategies for humans and many other species and is a beneficial process for ecosystem health as well as human and other species well-being, although it can also be damaging in certain contexts. However, movement is not always voluntary and can be forced, often causing considerable stress and harm. There are also both humans and other species that are ‘trapped’ and cannot move easily or at all even when conditions become difficult or impossible to live and thrive in.
  • Environmental change is a prominent cause of forced migration and is predicted to contribute to dramatic increases in the displacement of vulnerable people and other species over the coming decades.
  • Conservation practice has at times resulted in – and in some places continues to contribute to – the forced and violent displacement of local communities and Indigenous Peoples and the relocation of other species.
  • Forced displacements have environmental and social impacts across migration arcs – that is, in places of origin, transit and destination – including furthering environmental change, causing or amplifying violent conflict and/or human-wildlife conflict, deepening impoverishment and generating new forms of displacement. Holistic approaches to understanding human and other species migrations and their interplay in the context of global environmental change are crucial.
  • Through engagement with environmental peacebuilding, conservation practice can be reduced as a contributing driver behind human and other species displacement and resulting conflicts.

Part II: Reimagining conservation at the intersection of migration, environmental change and conflict – 

Assesses ‘big solutions’ to protecting nature and explores migration-sensitive conservation embracing a ‘whole-of-arc’ framework.


“The growth of displacement related to environmental change and conflict suggests the need for reimagining conservation in ways that extend beyond area-based protection measures.”


Part III: Moving forward together - 

Explores transformative narratives, values and how to reform practices and laws and policies to move forward. A call to action for the conservation community to expand its scope of engagement.


“The conservation community must be proactive in engaging new partnerships and collaborative problem-solving with diverse stakeholders among the development, humanitarian, peacebuilding and migration communities at all levels to integrate agendas and program coordination, as well as to foster dialogue, cross-fertilisation and learning across sectors over program timelines that are long enough to impact on these intersecting dynamics.”



“This report focuses on forced migration and highlights that within the lens of human migration it is important to consider the conservation dimension. In addition the report argues for the consideration of human and species migration in an integrated way beyond silos, with key messages that demand our attention.”  

- Barbara Nakangu, WWF