The UN’s migration agency is censoring itself on the climate crisis and the global compact on migration, following pressure from the US government.
An email sent by a US-based official of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on 28 August to colleagues around the world relayed that the US state department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) told the agency documents related to programme activities it funds “must not be in conflict with current [US government] political sensitivities”.
Sensitivities include the climate crisis, sustainable development goals, the global compact for migration and “anything that seems at odds with the administration’s take on US domestic/foreign issues”, the official wrote in the email.
“Documents related to programme activities, especially those that will be published online, may require prior review and approval by the donor,” they went on, requesting that colleagues use “discretion” and share relevant documents “in enough time to make any necessary adjustments in coordination with PRM”.
The email’s author noted that “PRM is very willing to cut funding in areas that it deems are not in line with US foreign policy objectives”, and asked that the substance of the email be conveyed by regional coordinators “to all country focal points”.
The Guardian understands from IOM sources and further communications it has seen that the agency is avoiding direct references to climate change in documents for projects funded by other US government entities such as USAid.
IOM receives about a quarter of its total budget of $2bn (£1.6bn) from the US, $18m of which is provided by PRM.
Jeff Crisp, a research associate at Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre who previously held a senior position in the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR, said the leaked message “raises some serious questions about the autonomy of IOM, its sensitivity to positions adopted by the US administration, and its ability to function as a member of the UN system”.