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Symposium 2010

Proposal - Emerging global governance arrangements

The Challenge

Over the coming decades, tens of millions will  ace serious degradation of their natural  environments and find their livelihoods  threatened. Migration—both within countries and across national ...

Over the coming decades, tens of millions will  ace serious degradation of their natural  environments and find their livelihoods  threatened. Migration—both within countries and across national borders—is one way in which individuals will respond. At the same time, environmental  hange and migration are both multi-faceted.

Although there is a lack of evidence and consensus on the nature of the relationship between environmental change and migration, and despite the expectation that most resulting population movements will take place within national borders, it seems likely that considerable numbers of people will also cross international borders either directly or indirectly as a result of the effects of environmental change. A proportion of them will fall outside existing legal and normative frameworks. Because they have crossed borders they will not be covered by the soft law framework of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement; yet neither will they satisfy the criteria for refugee status defined in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which does not recognize environmental factors as a cause of displacement.

The growing scale of cross-border movements, and the prospect of 'environmental migrants' falling into protection gaps, are two strong arguments for revising the legal and normative framework, and reforming current institutional roles and responsibilities.

Some countries have established special policies that permit individuals whose countries have experienced natural disasters to remain at least temporarily without fear of deportation (such as Temporary Protected Status in the USA and the Temportary Protection Directive in the EU). Sweden and Finland are rare examples of states that have included 'environmental migrants' within their immigration policies. A number of other countries provide exceptions to removal on an ad hoc basis. But at the moment there are no examples of legislation or policies that address the migration of peoole from slow-onset climate changes that may destroy habitats or livelihoods in the long term - for example desertification or rising sea levels. Equall there are no international legal instruments that specifically address international migration stemming from climate change or other environmental factors. Proposals to address this gap in the legal and normative framework range from a new international convention, to amending the 1951 Convention, to developing 'guiding pricniples' to inform national laws and policies.

Just as international legal frameworks for addressing climate change-inducted cross-border movements are weak, so are the institutional roles and responsibilities at both the international and national levels. With the exception of the refugee regime, there is no existing internatiional regime for managing international movements of people, although a plethora of international organizations have some responsibilities related to international migration. 'Environmental migration' may serve as a trigger for g the global governance of international migration. Policy options include: creating a new agency, designating a lead agency from among existing agencies, bringing IOM into the UN system, a coordination model, a leadership model, a WTO model, and an incremental model.

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