AU Alumna Advocates for Climate Refugees

Ober 2015

Kayly Ober came to American University to become a diplomat, but a course in International Development sparked an interest in the challenges people face in how and where they live.

Ober, SIS ’08, instead found her calling advocating for increased investment in disaster relief as climate-change disasters such as cyclones, fires, and monsoons created climate refugees.

“There’s a spectrum of different types of movement related to climate change and its impacts,” said Ober, the senior advocate and program manager of Refugees International’s Climate Displacement Program. “But we can see very clearly that climate change has a role to play in when people make decisions to move.”

Ober, a third-generation immigrant, interned with the World Resources Insitute during her junior and senior years, focusing on energy governance and climate change. The internship, along with her classroom education, helped her understand the intersection of climate change and migration and led to her first post-graduate job as a program assistant at the Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security program.

“Because of the location of AU in Washington, DC, I was afforded the opportunity to have internships at different organizations that helped shape my career,” Ober says.

Ultimately, Ober landed a position at Refugees International, one of the only organizations in the world with a program dedicated to climate and displacement issues. There, she researches post-disaster crises and recommends ways for policy makers to support displaced people. Recent projects have focused on the impacts of Cyclone Harold in the Pacific, the collision of Cyclone Amphan and the monsoon flooding in Bangladesh and India.

As sudden-onset disasters become more frequent and intense, leading to protracted displacement, Ober is changing interest into action. She is a compelling advocate for increased investment in disaster relief and recovery and the decentralization of humanitarian operations. 

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