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E.g., 06/25/2024
Human Rights, Climate Change, Environmental Degradation and Migration: A New Paradigm
Policy Briefs
March 2014

Human Rights, Climate Change, Environmental Degradation and Migration: A New Paradigm

Climate change and environmental degradation will likely displace millions of people in the coming years, either directly or indirectly. Although today’s international legal framework provides a degree of protection to certain environmental migrants, major gaps in the framework often prevent recognition of their vulnerability and endanger their rights.

One major problem is that there is little consensus on the definition of environmental migrants, in large part because it is difficult to ascertain the influence of environmental factors, such as degradation and climate change, on migration. In the absence of a precise definition, ambiguity about the legal rights of migrants and the responsibilities of governments and international organizations lead to difficulties in implementing solutions. 

This issue in brief, part of a joint series by MPI and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) offering succinct insights on migration issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region, emphasizes the need to defend the rights of migrants whose movement is induced by environmental degradation or climate change, particularly in the highly vulnerable Asia-Pacific region, by pursuing an integrated approach to climate change that incorporates rights-based strategies. The brief evaluates the current human rights framework; identifies gaps both in the legal framework and in implementation; and then reviews different legal options available to the international community. Finally, the brief makes recommendations on how to strengthen the “soft law” approach as an interim step before there is broad global consensus on a possible binding framework to protect the rights of environmental migrants. 

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Environmental Migrants and Displaced Persons: International Legal Framework

III. Climate Vulnerability and the Asia-Pacific Situation: Rapid and Unplanned Urbanization and its Human Security Implications

IV. The Legal Implications of Sinking Islands

V. Conclusion