University of British Columbia Workshop

November 6th, 2017


As part of generous funding from the UBC Global Fund, we hosted a workshop on at the Global Lounge for students and researchers in the UBC community. The participants shared their knowledge and expertise in areas of urban planning, climate change, and architecture as it relates to the challenges associated with displacement and resettlement of migrants and refugees. After a brief presentation of the emerging themes that have arisen from previous research and engagement, we asked the participants to reflect on the avenues through which their profession can advance this work, as well as the limitations that come with their discipline.


Participant Feedback and Key Takeaways

Workshop participants identified some gaps in the categorical representation of “challenges” associated with planning for climate migrants and refugees, including:

  • How are gendered issues represented in how we present these challenges? There is a need for more data around gender differences in general, but also a need to take a more intersectional lens in understanding the challenges faced by migrants and refugees.

  • How can we bring rural issues into the conversation? Though this is primarily viewed as an urban challenge, the rural presents many opportunities for consideration, such as economic growth, ecological capacity for absorption, supporting rural and agricultural livelihoods, etc.

  • How can we meaningfully address indigeneity and reconciliation within the realm of planning for migrants and refugees?

  • It is important to continue engaging and empowering immigrants and newcomers in city-shaping processes as they are knowledge-holders with invaluable lived experiences

  • Framing the topic of climate migrants and refugees as a “problem” is problematic in itself

  • In pursuing future research, we should be mindful of the fact that some migrants may not want to be documented

What data / knowledge within your field are applicable to addressing climate migrants and refugees?

  • Planning Practice
    • Holistic view/approach of planning is an asset

    • Community engagement expertise and ability to facilitate multi-stakeholder conversations

    • Climate mitigation and adaptation planning in coastal communities

    • Demographic data collection

    • Being an advocate for refugee/migrant voices into community processes

    • Civilian data collection as an opportunity for engagement, with tradeoffs for reliability

    • Hazard and livelihood assessments (natural, physical, political, etc)

    • Examining issues of ‘eco-gentrification’ in urban areas, considering issues of class and privilege

  • Academic Research
    • Anthropology and the study of human migration characteristics and patterns

    • Theories of difference

    • Theoretical framing of climate justice in the scope of this work

    • Highlighting the need for gendered data

    • Historical political and cultural conflicts in response to resource scarcity

    • Statistical projections of current and future climate projections

    • Class, gender, and postcolonial theory, critical race studies

  • Social Work
    • Front line settlement work

    • Similarities and differences between challenges experienced by elite vs. vulnerable

  • Architecture
    • Culturally specific architectural design for housing units

What are the limitations of your field in addressing climate migrants and refugees?

  1. Top down vs. bottom up processes of engagement
    • Who should carry the burden in ensuring successful integration in receiving cities?
    • It is difficult to hear directly from migrants and refugees

    • Strict policies hinder flexible design opportunities

  2. Dealing with incomplete data and uncertainty when political moves demand evidence-based decisions
    • Planning and policy often look to current or historical data in creating demographic or population projections
    • We need more gender disaggregated data to meaningfully address gendered issues

  3. Westernization of mainstream planning
    • Lack of “diverse” staff doing planning and settlement work