Meet Senior Researcher Matthew Scott

In a new series of blog posts, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute will be presenting its staff members and the research that is currently being conducted at the institute.

With everyday manifestations of disasters and climate change that force people to leave their homes, Senior Researcher Dr. Matthew Scott’s work on disaster and climate change displacement could not be more relevant. The research being conducted at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, he says, is advancing the human rights perspective in national, regional and international discussions on the climate emergency.

Being the head of the People on the Move thematic area at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Matthew conducts research on various topics relating to disaster- and climate-related human mobility. His research covers broad geographical areas and multiple aspects of the phenomenon.

From Asia and the Pacific to the Nordic Countries.

Whilst finalising his doctoral research on refugee status determination in the context of disasters and climate change, Matthew joined RWI in 2017. He took the lead on a ten-country study on internal displacement across Asia and the Pacific. Within the framework of the Climate Change, Disasters and Internal Displacement in Asia and the Pacific project, the research group has analysed legal and policy responses to disaster- and climate change-related displacement from a human rights-based approach, grounded in the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The study has aimed at finding how and to what extent key international standards and guidelines have been taken into consideration in national laws and practice relating to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. While the study will be published at the end of the year in an edited volume by Routledge, a number of key project outputs , are available on the RWI website already.

While a lot of focus has been given to countries in Asia and the Pacific, climate related displacement is also occurring in other regions. With examples such the fires currently destroying large areas of the US West Coast and the Swedish wildfires in 2018, Matthew points out that it is getting “increasingly more obvious that we are facing a climate emergency that needs responding to”. Although countries of the Global South have already begun to experience climate emergency, events such as the massive wildfires in Sweden in 2018, Australia in 2019 and the USA in 2020 raise questions about the steps countries in the Global North are taking to prevent and prepare for displacement, protect people during evacuation and throughout displacement, and secure durable solutions. “It is an area to watch that we will do work on” Matthew says and refers to a Nordic network that he is part of.

Not only is Matthew looking at future displacement within the Global North, he is also researching individual applications for international protection related to climate change and disasters in Sweden and Austria. Together with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Matthew is studying how national courts reason regarding the availability of refugee status or other forms of international protection when applicants express a fear of being exposed to disasters and climate change in their home countries. The research, he says, will break new ground by revealing the variety of factors that contribute to people actually seeking international protection in European countries, and the kinds of legal avenues that are or should be available.

Working as a Researcher During the Covid-19 Pandemic

With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Matthew is currently also working on a project examining some of the human rights issues that arise when states introduce, or fail to introduce, legal and policy measures in response. With support from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute is carrying out a pilot study on legal and policy responses to the pandemic and the human rights impacts thereof. By studying the approaches of fifteen different countries, the researchers hope to identify and share promising practices, as well as patterns that reveal a need for a more systematic integration of rights-based approaches, such as in relation to the rights of persons with disabilities, migrant workers, indigenous people and others.

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