Project Profile: Misty

Migration, Transformation and Sustainability


Principal Investigators: Neil Adger, University of Exeter, United Kingdom
Partners: Francois Gemenne, University of Liege, Belgium
Ed Carr, Clark University, United States
Emily Boyd, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies, Sweden
Sam Codjoe, Regional Institute for Population Studies, Ghana
Sonja Fransen, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Ricardo Safra de Campos, University of Exeter, United Kingdom
Tasneem Siddiqui, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
Hein de Haas, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Domingos Macucule, Eduardo Mondlane University, Sweden
Anita Fábos, Clark University, United States
Mumuni Abu, University of Ghana, Ghana
Sponsors: Wallonia and Brussels Federation, Belgium
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, Netherlands
Swedish Research Council, Sweden
Economic and Social Research Council, United Kingdom
National Science Foundation, United States
International Social Science Council


Full Project Title: Migration, Transformation and Sustainability
Full Call Title: T2S2016


Project Objective: This research integrates comprehensive insights on migration into theories of transformation to sustainability. There is unprecedented concern over involuntary migration globally affecting insecurity and human rights. But both domestic and international migration has enormous transformative potential for individuals and societies. Transformation theories assume static populations and fail to recognize both positive and negative impacts of the movement of people. This gap limits explanations and intervention strategies for sustainability. The objective is therefore to use theory and rigorous empirical research to expand knowledge of transformations to sustainability by incorporating migration dynamics. These specifically include: the impact of aggregate flows of people on sustainability; the individual lifecourse dimensions of sustainability; and the governance of migration and sustainability. The research has developed a comprehensive migration-sustainability model, and insights on sustainability strategies at local, national and international scales. The research design involved modelling, observations and action research at global scales and in research sites representing the full range of so-called migration transitions. The outcomes include an assessment of migration-sustainability linkages using an integrated global trade model with international migration flows data to assess economic, social and environmental proxies for sustainability across world regions. The results show that international migration flows (a relatively small proportion of total regular migration) tends to increase net environmental burdens, except where labour flows are towards economic sectors that are in effect decarbonising the economy. In other words, international migration, can, in certain circumstances speed up sustainability transitions. A second outcome is in depth insights into perceptions of migrant populations in a range of cities across four continents, drawn from in depth repeat interviews and from large scale surveys administered both in person and online. Those data show that new migrant populations in cities globally emphasise community and social dimensions of sustainability as they seek to integrate into new places and cultural contexts. Opportunistic research with a cohort of these migrant populations in six cities during Covid-19 lockdowns, has demonstrated that Covid affected transformation trajectories through affecting aspirations and capabilities for social and physical mobility. Migration is most often perceived as an undesirable outcome with global governance focussed principally on regulating international movement. Research on the synergies between environmental and migration governance has demonstrated the potential synergies for incorporation of the perspectives and positive outcomes of migration for sustainability and planning. These outcomes have been communicated widely, through interactions with UN processes, such as the Global Compact on Migration and the Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as with policy stakeholders in multiple countries. The work is published in environmental and cross-disciplinary journals including contributions to programme outputs in Global Environmental Change, and in a special issue by the consortium for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Call Objective: T2S has two major objectives:

To develop understanding of and promote research on transformations to sustainability which are of significant social, economic and policy concern throughout the world and of great relevance to both academics and stakeholders;

To build capacity, overcome fragmentation and have a lasting impact on both society and the research landscape by cultivating durable research collaboration across multiple borders, disciplinary boundaries, and with practitioners and societal partners. This includes facilitating the development of new research collaborations with parts of the world which are not often involved in large-scale international research efforts, notably low- and middle-income countries.


Regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America
Countries: Bangladesh, Belgium, Ghana, Mozambique, Netherlands, United States of America (USA)


Duration: 42 months
Call Date: July 6, 2017
Project Award Date: April 26, 2018