Indeed, “at no point have the challenges that we face today been as complex,” said Katalin Bogyay, Hungary’s permanent representative at the United Nations (UN), who moderated the session. “Today the international community turns to scientists for answers to some of the most pressing social, economic, and environmental problems.”
Global migration is a current priority among “urgent political issues where science—and science advice—can play a vital role,” said panelist Flavia Schlegel, assistant director-general for natural sciences at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). She and the other panelists pointed to climate change as one culprit driving mass migrations. “Environmental transformations disproportionally affect those who have contributed least to them and are least equipped to cope with these changes,” Schlegel said.
To that end, panelist Vladimir Rakhmanin, assistant director-general and regional representative for Europe and Central Asia at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, and his colleagues are working to establish best practices for agricultural economics in farming regions impacted by the effects of climate change. “We are trying to reduce the impacts of climate change that are happening now and increase resilience for future,” Rakhmanin said.
Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, president of her country’s Royal Scientific Society, said that today’s “climate refugees” signal an insecure future for the rest of the world. (Jordan has accepted more than 700,000 Syrian refugees since the start of the crisis, according to the UN.) Migration can also positively impact recipient nations, El Hassan and the other panelists agreed, and these socially and economically beneficial effects should be considered along with all other data. She pointed to programs aimed at helping displaced researchers integrate into scientific communities within their new countries as a beacon of hope.
But reactionary policies, while welcome in crisis situations, are not enough, El Hassan added. She urged social scientists to collect additional data on the factors that lead to global migration, noting history has shown that “the movement of people is not just understandable, but predictable.”
Lovász agreed. “Approaching [global migration] with scientific tools . . . gives interesting new results [and] new information that we believe governments should take into account,” he said.
Tracy Vence's attendance at World Science Forum 2015 is in part supported by a travel grant from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Elsevier, and SciCom — Making Sense of Science.