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FOCUS Conference

Human mobility facing climate change

June 21, 6 PM

Launched by the Embassy of France in Sri Lanka and the Maldives in 2015, the series of conferences called “FOCUS” has been seeking to enrich the reflection of France and Sri Lanka on sustainable development.

For its fourth edition of 2021, the Embassy of France will engage on June 21st with climate-related human mobility, in collaboration with SLYCAN Trust. 

Human mobility, climate change and the environment are interrelated. Climate change impacts human mobility within and across borders in the context of either sudden or slow-onset disasters, by causing for instance evacuations, planned relocations, cyclical migration streams, or creating trapped populations.

In Sri Lanka, climate change has become an underlying driver of human mobility. Hydrometeorological hazards, such as floods and droughts, and long-term processes, such as soil depletion, salinization, deforestation, and ecosystem degradation, impact the agriculture sector as well as other livelihoods and can exacerbate existing socioeconomic vulnerabilities. Water scarcity and increasing heat affect crop yields and livestock productivity, leading in turn to reduced income and driving farmers toward poverty traps. Climate change affects human mobility, livelihoods, and well-being across different sectors, including water resources and irrigation, human health, ecosystems and biodiversity, risk management, food systems, sustainable development, education, human settlements, gender, vulnerable communities, and social protection.

Panelists :

  • Dr. Ranjith Punyawardena, Chairman, National Steering Committee on Climate Change Adaptation, Ministry of Environment, Government of Sri Lanka

  • Ms. Rangitha Balasuriya, Senior Project Coordinator, IOM Sri Lanka and Maldives

  • Mr. Dennis Mombauer, Director of Research & Knowledge Management, SLYCAN Trust


The discussion was moderated by Ms Vositha Wijenayake, Executive Director of the SLYCAN Trust.

Dr. Ranjith Punyawardena.jpg
Rangitha Balasuriya.jpg
Dennis Mombauer.jpg
Vositha Wijenayake.jpg

Dr. Ranjith Punyawardena

Dr. Ranjith Punyawardena has over three decades of work experience in climatology and agro-climatology, agro-ecology, climate change and adaptation to climate change, climate vulnerability and disaster risk reduction at national and international level. He is Chair of the National Experts Committee on Climate Change Adaptation and has been technical advisor and consultant for international agencies like IUCN, ILO, UN, Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, World Food Programme, UNDP, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), FAO, and national agencies including the Ministry of Disaster Management, Ministry of Forestry and Environment. He holds a Ph.D in Climatological Modeling from Lincoln University, New Zealand and an M.Phil in Soil Science from the University of Peradeniya.


Ms. Rangitha Balasuriya

Rangitha Balasuriya is a senior social researcher and a development practitioner in the fields of climate induced migration, emergency response, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and, presently working for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Sri Lanka mission as the Migration, Environment and Climate Change (MECC) focal. She also represents the IOM’s Humanitarian Country Team within the UN network and provides necessary institutional guidance and support to environmental migrants by liaising with local, regional and international institutions / counterparts during emergency settings.


Mr. Dennis Mombauer
Dennis Mombauer works as Director: Research & Knowledge Management for SLYCAN Trust, a non-profit think tank based in Sri Lanka. He has more than a decade of experience working in research, management, and coordination in the private and the development sector. His work focuses on climate risk and risk management, adaptation and resilience, human mobility, sustainable development, gender, inclusion, and other related topics. Dennis is a member of the impact working group and the gender working group of the InsuResilience Global Partnership. In addition, he also publishes articles on these topics, for example in Earth Island Journal, Mongabay, The Environmental Blog, Daily FT, or Colombo Telegraph.

Ms. Vositha Wijenayake

Vositha Wijenayake works as the Executive Director of SLYCAN Trust, a non-profit think tank focusing on climate change, sustainable development, resilience, biodiversity, ecosystem conservation, and social justice. She is an attorney-at-law specialising in public international law including international environmental law, refugee law, EU law, and UN human rights law. Vositha has over a decade of experience in working in the field of climate change and the UN climate change process at national and international levels, and has also led regional work related to capacity-building, policy and research work in Asia and the Pacific, and in Africa.  Vositha is a member of the UNFCCC’s expert group on oceans, an advisor to the Resilience Frontiers initiative of the UN, and member of the National Expert Committee on Climate Change Adaptation of the Ministry of Environment of Sri Lanka. She is also a member of the High Level Consultative Group of the InsuResilience Global Partnership and co-chairs the Impact Working Group of the Partnership.

Organized with the support of:

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