“What do we need? Localization, dialogue and representation.” The voice of the young woman rang out across the room of young people who cheered in response.  

Welcome to the first Asia-Pacific Youth Summit on Climate Change and Human Mobility in Manila. 

Climate and environmental factors are increasingly driving migration and displacement around the world, while Asia-Pacific is the region most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and disasters. The region is also home to more than two billion people under the age of 30 who are at the forefront of the climate-induced impacts and environmental change.  

That’s why the IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, together with Miriam College, the NGO Upholding Life and Nature (ULAN) and the Migration Youth and Children Platform (MYCP), invited young climate advocates from around the region, alongside Filipino law and communications students, to take part in a youth-led, youth-centred event in the lead-up to IOM’s International Dialogue on Migration.


Over 100 young people gathered at the Environmental Studies Institute of Miriam College on 29 September for the youth summit. In collaboration with IOM, eight young leaders from the region (Australia, Japan, Mongolia, the Philippines, Singapore, Solomon Islands) participated in designing the summit. As young people with in-depth experience in climate change activism, the youth leaders centered the discussion of climate migration in their respective contexts, as well as approaches to climate mobility activism and the challenges faced by youth activists. 


Here’s what we learned: 

1. Young people know what climate and environmental change looks like in their communities 

The summit participants represented diverse experiences and identities. From Mongolia to Solomon Islands, young people demonstrated great insights about the context-specific impacts of climate change on their communities. From increased instances of heavy flooding leading to temporary displacement of communities to the complete relocation of communities from their ancestral lands due to rising sea levels, one thing became clear: climate and environmental change is impacting the lives of young people and their families.  


2. Young people often do not have the resources or knowledge on climate migration to discuss, debate and advocate for change 

Climate migration is becoming an increasingly pressing issue. In fact, Asia-Pacific communities are at the forefront of climate-induced displacements. However, throughout the event, the key challenge identified was young people lacking the background knowledge to discuss the specific impacts of climate and environmental change on their mobility. Discussions revealed how climate migration was an issue seldom discussed in communities or educational environments.  

3. Young people want an intersectional, youth-led and focused approach to be taken in the development of solutions 

Participants recognized that the impact of climate migration is not felt equally across communities. Certain communities in Asia-Pacific are more susceptible to the human mobility consequences of climate change and its flow-on effects. In response, young people emphasized the importance of an intersectional approach in analyzing climate migration to ensure that effective solutions can be created. More specifically, the experiences of indigenous communities, persons with disabilities, women and children, as well as LGBTQIA+ communities should be considered and consulted. 


Climate migration is also an issue of intergenerational equity, with disproportionate impacts felt by today’s youth and future generations. This means that youth-led solutions are all the more important. 


What are young people advocating for?  

Overall, there was a pressing call from youth for governments to engage meaningfully with young people to create youth-led and future-focused solutions to climate migration.  

Here are some ideas from the summit about how to promote greater collaboration between youth, grassroot organizations and governments: 

  • Create more localized, frequent dialogues between youth and government or youth and institutions for knowledge sharing or consultations for upcoming policies. This could take the form of frequent community forums in conjunction with high-level events. 

  • Prioritize financial accessibility when engaging with youth delegates. Often, conferences and summits are expensive and, as a consequence, few youth delegates can afford to attend. This impacts the involvement of youth in key negotiations relating to issues that majorly impact them.  

  • Connect government and educational institutions through centralized spaces for students to learn, share and voice their experiences. Building knowledge and capacity will allow youth to be more effective co-creators alongside government. Check out the example of L’Academie du Climat (Climate Academy) in Paris. 

  • Support and promote education campaigns and resources to help young people recognize and reflect on climate migration in their communities. 

  • Mainstream climate migration in educational curriculum. The content should be contextualized to the region, community and culture. Learning about polar bears in Asia-Pacific instead of typhoons creates distance from the issue as students do not relate to it.  

  • Increase investment in creating formal spaces for safe debates and discussions relating to climate migration policies. One example is the National Youth Commission’s Philippines Youth Development Plan - a comprehensive framework that aims “to integrate all plans of action to address pressing youth challenges into a holistic strategy, transforming them into enablers, advocates, and aspirations for youth,” allowing young people to play an active role in the planning and implementation of local and national policies that concern them. 


The key messages at the summit were shared at IOM’s International Dialogue on Migration and will inform IOM’s contributions to COP28, and other key upcoming events, in particular the United Nations Summit of the Future in 2024 and the regional reviews of the Global Compact for Migration. 

Want to hear more about what the youth participants had to say? Check out the video here.

Written by Jerry Nguyen and Aidan Luchs, members of the regional team of youth climate advocates who took part in the planning and delivery of the youth summit, with editing by IOM ROAP.