Two climate and environment conferences in December 2023, one with global attention in Dubai and the other with a hyper-local focus in the Eastern Himalayas, highlighted the need for a more nuanced conversation on climate and forced population displacement. They both point to a need for a multi-factored model in the analytical approach to forced migration.
Council on Foreign Relations, International Affairs Fellow in India
Purvi Patel is an attorney and humanitarian professional with a background in public health working in the international humanitarian and development sectors, with specific experience in public health, refugee protection, durable solutions, detention, legal status determination, and disability rights. More recently, she has focused on the application data analytics and data visualization tools to drive more targeted, inclusive, and intersectional responses to legal protection and humanitarian interventions for displaced families. From 2013-2023, Purvi worked in Latin America for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Danish Refugee Council, the International Center for Migration Policy Development, as well as other NGOs on topics including labor rights, forced migration, refugee protection, migration and health, and protection information management, particularly in Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, Libya, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. She most recently served as the Livelihoods and Economic Inclusion Officer for UNHCR´s operation in Peru. Prior to 2013, Purvi practiced as a health & disability lawyer in Chicago. Purvi holds a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law, and a master’s in public health from Tufts University School of Medicine. She has also earned certificates in Forced Migration from the Oxford University in the United Kingdom, and in Data Analytics & Visualization from the Tecnológico de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico. She currently serves on the board of directors of the Chicago Refugee Coalition.
From COP to COP, the discussions focus on climate change and its impacts. But none have yet addressed a critical issue: the definition of a “climate refugee” or climate-related forced migration. Some contend that the issue requires a revision in the 1951 Refugee Convention. But with refugee and migrant flows to the borders of Western democracies, the term “refugee” is often re-framed as a concern about preservation of culture and values.