More than 30,000 people from the Gunayala island communities of Panama are facing climate displacement and will need to move from their island homes to the mainland. For the 1000-strong Gunayala community of Gardi Sugdub, the planned relocation process is underway. DS is working closely with the Gunayala people to ensure the best possible outcome emerges from their unfortunate need to relocate to safer land.

The footage below shows the 17 acre resettlement site that was cleared in April 2015 for the planned relocation of the Gardi Sugdub community. DS relocation experts Anthony Oliver-Smith and Carlos Arenas visited the site shortly after the clearance took place, during DS’s most recent mission to Panama. As the video makes abundantly clear, the process of planned relocation is anything but simple. The identification of land and the subsequent clearance of land for location is only the first step of hundreds that will need to occur to reestablish a vibrant and prosperous community comprised of former island-dwellers who are no longer able to reside there due to the unfortunate consequences of climate change. As difficult as this process may be, however, the identification of land, the acquisition of land, and the allocation of land to people and communities threatened with climate displacement is one of the key ways by which the full spectrum of rights of climate displaced persons can best be respected and protected. Many more such relocation sites will be required both in Panama and innumerable other countries to help rehouse and reestablish the lives of millions of people throughout the world who are already on the move because of climate change.

DS has been active in Panama for over a year now, and last year released The Peninsula Principles in Action: Climate Change and Displacement in the Autonomous Region of Gunayala, Panama, which presents the results of the initial fact-finding mission to assess the situation in the Gunayala indigenous community which was already experiencing the affects of climate change. The report is available here in English and here in Spanish. A follow-up report on recent developments in Panama will be released by DS in June 2015.