climate change

Disasters and refugee protection – a socio-legal case study from Yemen

Every year millions of people are forced to flee their homes in the context of climate change and disasters. Their needs and rights are unclear. This paper presents and discusses some findings from a socio-legal case study exploring the rights of disaster-affected Somalis and Ethiopians in Yemen. The first main findings relate to the challenges that Ethiopians face in accessing, and succeeding with, the formal asylum process. This is discussed in light of legal aid theory and research as well as research on credibility assessments. Another category of findings relates to interactions of local, religious law and international law. This is discussed in light of legal pluralism, which helps in identifying an emancipatory potential. While complex, dynamic and depending on regional politics and other factors, the way Islamic law is applied - and influences other bodies of law - seems to ensure better protection than the 1951 Refugee Convention alone. This potential should be further explored and possibly expanded in order to strengthen the rights of people displaced in the context of climate change and disasters more generally.

Read the full conference paper
here.

Seminar: Climate change and displacement - the role of law

On 3rd February, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Law Faculty at the University of Oslo organised a seminar on climate change, displacement and the law.

Professor Walter Kälin who is political envoy of the Nansen Initiative was one of the speakers.

Marianne Karlsen, from Ministry of Climate and Environment, explained how displacement was recognised in the UN climate negotiations.

I presented some main findings from my doctoral thesis. The Introduction (“kappa”) is available
here.

An audio-visual from the seminar is available here.

Doctoral defence

On 24th January, I gave two trial lectures and defended my doctoral thesis for the degree Dr. Philos. in Sociology of Law at the University of Oslo.

Every year millions are forced to flee their homes in the context of disasters associated with climate change and natural hazards. This thesis seeks to help secure real rights for those displaced. In order to do so, I explore the lives and rights of displaced people through interviews with them, government officials, UN actors and others. I also analyse relevant formal law.

The Introduction (“kappa”) of the doctoral is available
here.

Information about the trial lectures and defence is available
here.

In the media:


Climate refugees hard hit by unclear laws, ScienceNordic, 14 May 2014.

Klimaflyktning i lov og praksis, Morgenbladet, 24 January 2014.

Klimaflyktninger rammes hardt av uklare lover, forskning.no, 17 April 2014

Klimaflyktninger rammes hardt av uklare lover, UiO.no, 25 April 2014.

New paper on "climate refugees"

A paper of mine that was recently published in the International Journal of Social Science Studies, discusses the protection of Somalis who were displaced to Kenya and Egypt during the 2011 and 2012 drought. The full paper is available online here.

Abstract:
Natural hazard-related disasters, including those associated with climate change, displace millions of people. Those displaced across international state borders face particular challenges with regards to legal status and rights protection. This paper discusses to what extent, and how, this group of displaced people are protected, and indicates how their protection can be further strengthened. The discussion draws on case studies of Somalis displaced to Kenya and Egypt during the 2011 and 2012 drought. Appreciation of the contextual vulnerability in disasters and the multi-causality of displacement can, and should, inform the interpretation of the refugee concept(s). In Kenya, for example, all Somalis were given refugee status on a prima facie group basis due to the presence of generalised violence as well as drought in their home country. In Egypt, the decision-makers operated with a different understanding and practice, and many Somalis risked falling outside the refugee definition(s). Beyond getting a formal refugee status recognition, however, there may also be protection issues related to formal law such as restrictions on inter alia the right to work and freedom of movement, as well as issues related to operational capacity and resources such as lack of shelter and security. A series of extra-legal factors must be given due consideration both to ensure that the protection capacity of existing law is employed to its fullest and that new legal and policy developments become effective.