Migration with dignity from a sinking island nation

Shannon Gormley was awarded a fellowship in early 2016. Her project focused on the country of Kiribati, and how its most vulnerable residents are dealing with rising sea levels and climate change.

Read the article and watch the video: Migration with dignity: Their island nation may someday sink into the ocean, so what are Kiribati’s people to do? Ottawa Citizen, December 16, 2016


The fellowship gave me a great opportunity to build on my portfolio of foreign reporting, and to delve deeper into migration issues, which is one of my main areas of interest. My project, published by the Ottawa Citizen, examined a tiny country’s effort to help its own people get off the island. The effort is called “migration with dignity”: It focuses on training and job-creation programs that help citizens of developing countries find work in places that are perceived as less vulnerable to climate change, and counters the argument that people fleeing climate change want to be legally recognized as “climate refugees.” The project took me to four different countries in Oceania; it had me interview former presidents, Olympians, old Catholic nuns, would-be refugees and descendants of slaves; it saw me sleep in quarters that ranged from a single-room hut to a luxury resort; it made me search for everything from an unmarked plot of jungle to landmarks sunken into the sea; and, in the end, it let me tell a story that hasn’t been told before about poverty and climate change, and the way that some people are dealing with both.


Shannon Gormley is a journalist and Ottawa Citizen columnist based in Istanbul. She’s covered the Syrian refugee crisis for two and a half years throughout Europe and the Middle East. Migration will continue defining the 21st century, but so will climate change: her project will consider why these two phenomena intersect, how they’re changing the landscape of the South Pacific, and what the rest of the world can learn from sinking island states.

“Newsroom budgets may be shrinking, but foreign reporting can’t get squeezed out. The world is too small to ignore our neighbours. Maybe that’s partly why my work focusses on the movement of people: migration is the great metaphor for how events in one part of the world eventually make their way to other places.”

Fellowship for International Development Reporting

The Fellowship for International Development Reporting encouraged journalists to push the boundaries of daily foreign coverage – which is often focused on disaster or crisis – and set new standards for reporting on the developing world. Fellowship recipients were provided with $25,000 to undertake a substantial reporting project which helps Canadians develop a greater understanding of the complex issues facing the developing world.

The Fellowship has two objectives: to encourage ambitious foreign reporting during an era of tighter news budgets; and, to foster a community of Canadian journalists who share an interest in reporting original topics from the developing world.

The Fellowship for International Development Reporting was a joint initiative of the Canadian Association of Journalists(CAJ) and Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC).