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Workshop for Alaska Natives and Island State Peoples to compare strategies for adapting to climate change


The primary goal of the workshop as part of a broader initiative on climate change and community-based relocation is to foster a partnership and collaboration among communities facing climate-induced relocation in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Drawing on the knowledge and expertise of the indigenous communities of Newtok, Alaska and the Carteret Islands, Papua New Guinea, our objectives were to: (1) document the experiences and lessons learned from these two communities’ relocation efforts; (2) identify the needs and challenges facing these communities as they plan their relocations; and (3) begin to develop appropriate tools and resources to assist these and similarly situated communities in their relocation efforts.

To achieve this goal, NSF-funded staff organized a 9-day workshop in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. The workshop occurred between September 1 and September 16, 2012. Workshop participants included: two members of the Newtok Traditional Council, an Alaskan human rights attorney who has worked with the Newtok Traditional Council since 2007 and was the Principal Investigator for this proposal, a Washington DC-based human rights attorney, five staff members of Tulele Peisa, the non-governmental organization organized by the Carteret Island clan elders to relocate their community and three people from Manus Province, Papua New Guinea, who traveled to the workshop through funding provided by The Nature Conservancy. The participants from Manus Province included two men residing in two different communities needing to relocate because of rising sea levels. Robin Bronen, a PhD Candidate (graduated this year) was key in conceptualizing and organizing the workshop. Her research is focused on “Climmigration” issues considered with a human-rights framework. Robin is a migration attorney based in Anchorage.

Address Goals

The interaction of these groups revealed common challenges and thus, helped to advance our understanding of adaptation to climate change by two highly vulnerable groups.