Exploring Slow-Onset Disaster & Mobility Risks from Human Rights Perspective

Welcome to the Exploring Slow-Onset Disaster & Mobility Risks from Human Rights Perspective – a session lead by RWI at the Thai pavilion at COP28. The session is to be conducted on Monday, 4 December 2023 at 13.00-14.30 at the Thai Pavilion (Zone B5 Building 62) in the Blue Zone.


Windi Arini, Programme Officer, RWI



Danang Nizar, Programme Officer, RWI

Pirawan Wongnithisathaporn, Environment Programme Officer, AIPP

Romchat Wachirarattanakornkul, OHCHR

Anjan Sundaram, Journalist


In the evolving discourse on environmental challenges, the spotlight has traditionally gravitated toward the immediate impacts of rapid-onset disasters. Floods, landslides, and extreme weather events have dominated studies on hazards related to human mobility, often overshadowing the subtler but equally impactful consequences of slow-onset environmental changes. As our understanding of these gradual shifts deepens, a critical examination of their implications on human mobility becomes imperative.

The recent findings from a regional workshop conducted by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI) and the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, underscore the challenges in collecting data on slow-onset-related mobility. This limitation not only hinders policymakers’ ability to address the issue adequately but also accentuates the need for a more inclusive, bottom-up research approach. The inclusion of local and traditional knowledge in the data collection process, as exemplified by the Thai Baan research, emerges as a best practice, empowering local communities to actively participate in identifying issues and shaping solutions.

Furthermore, the lack of consensus on how to define and understand ‘environmental migration’ poses significant implications for law, policy, and on-the-ground responses. RWI and CSDS advocate for interdisciplinary and action-oriented research on slow-onset-related mobility in the specific political and legal context of the Greater Mekong Sub-region. This includes a collaborative effort to review existing legislative frameworks, identifying gaps, and suggesting strategies to strengthen the protection of people displaced by slow-onset events.

Adding another layer to this intricate landscape is the potential of maladaptation becomes pronounced in instances where big green development projects are implemented without proper consultation with local and indigenous communities. In such cases, communities may find themselves excluded from decision-making processes and means of voicing their grievances, creating vulnerabilities that may exacerbate migration risks.

Recent experiences from Mexico such as Paso de la Reina, where Indigenous environmental activists faced violence for defending their pristine Rio Verde River, vividly illustrate the consequences of environmental degradation. Conversely, success stories, like those of the Zapotec community of Magdalena Teitipac and the Purhépecha community of Cherán, highlight the resilience of communities in safeguarding their land against environmental threats.

This session, titled “Adapting Horizons,” aims to synthesize these complex elements by exploring slow-onset mobility and migration risks from human rights perspective. Through interdisciplinary knowledge exchange, it seeks to advocate for the inclusion of slow-onset-related mobility in international climate policy discussions. Simultaneously, it endeavours to identify opportunities to strengthen legal frameworks for protecting and supporting affected communities, with the ultimate goal of developing concrete and practical recommendations that foster regional cooperation and address the interconnected challenges in the context of climate change.


  1. Comprehend Slow-Onset Mobility Dynamics: Analyze the challenges and implications of slow-onset-related mobility to understand its influence on migration patterns.
  2. Highlight Maladaptation and Migration Risks: Examine the risks associated with adaptation strategies that does not employ rights-based perspective, as these runs has a significant risk of maladaptation. This session aims to propose strategies to minimize migration risks.
  3. Integrate Rights-Based Approaches: Emphasize the importance of integrating rights-based principles into environmental adaptation strategies to ensure just and sustainable outcomes.

Through these discussions, the session aims to contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the interconnected challenges and solutions related to slow-onset mobility and migration risks from human rights perspective.

Featured image: UNFCCC

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