The Nordic Network on Climate Related Displacement and Mobility brings together scholars, practitioners and stakeholders to contribute to policy and regulatory questions associated with climate change related displacement and other forms of mobility as it impacts this region. By drawing on the Nordic experience, and putting this into a context of global trends, the Network highlights a specifically Nordic angle which will contribute to questions of immediate relevance to the governance of a global challenge.
Research into climate change and migration from a legal and policy perspective is in its fledgling stages in the Nordic region with only a few researchers focused specifically on the issue, and more working at its edges, but without a central hub to coordinate those efforts. This is the gap that the Nordic Network on Climate Related Displacement and Mobility fills.
Academic discussion of the legal and policy response to climate related human mobility has paid particular attention to whether the existing international, regional and national legal regimes adequately protect threatened communities. Understandably, that research has tended to focus on law and policy in the places where people are especially vulnerable to climate-related harm: the Global South. The consequence of this, however, that important questions remain for the Nordic region including how climate change might impact human mobility, and, relatedly, what legal and policy options might offer the most effective responses. This Network was established to address this research and policy gap.
The unique biophysical, legal and socio-political characteristics of the region justify independent attention. The impact of climate change in the Nordic region is both important and unique. Intense rainfall combined with faster than usual snowmelt increases the frequency of rock falls, debris flows and avalanches in mountainous areas. Flat plains are likely to suffer from a greater frequency and intensity of rainfall causing flash flooding, and an increase in storm surges can be expected to impact north-western Europe, including Denmark, while summer wildfires in Sweden are becoming increasingly regular. Climate change also disrupts fragile ecosystems in the Nordic Arctic Region, including the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. The resultant imbalance in biodiversity and weather cycles have corollary impacts on human populations and contribute to existing pressures on indigenous life and livelihoods.
At the same time, the Nordic region has seen a 16% increase in population from 1990 to 2017, primarily from net migration (Nordic Council of Ministers 2018). The number of people moving into the region intensified in 2015-2016 when the entire European region experienced a surge in people seeking international protection. During this time, Sweden and Finland had legislation that extended refugee-type protection for ‘environmental catastrophe’ (Swedish Aliens Act 4 kap 2a §; Aliens Act (Finland) s 109(1)). However, both countries repealed these provisions. That laws were introduced but later repealed serves to highlight that there is a need for research-based policy to ensure Nordic preparedness for the inevitable future climate change related human mobility.
The Nordic Network on Climate Related Displacement and Mobility was established in late-2019 with funding provided by the Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS). The funding supports two workshops which will be held over the course of 2020-2023, with further funding being sought to extend the life of the Network beyond the grant period and to support other relevant events.
Miriam Cullen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Magdalena Kmak, University of Åbo and University of Helsinki, Finland
Matthew Scott is the Thematic Leader of the Human Rights and the Environment thematic area at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Lund, Sweden.
His work focuses on integrating social science perspectives with international legal standards to promote context-sensitive, human rights-based law, policy and practice relating to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. His primary area of expertise concerns migration and displacement in the context of disasters and climate change, on which he has published a monograph entitled Climate Change, Disasters and the Refugee Convention (CUP 2020), an edited volume entitled Climate Change, Disasters and Internal Displacement in Asia and the Pacific: A Human Rights-Based Approach (Routledge 2021), and a range of book chapters and academic articles in, amongst others, the International Journal of Refugee Law, the Nordic Journal of International Law and the Yearbook of International Disaster Law. The edited volume was a major output of a regional thematic study he coordinated as part of RWI’s Asia-Pacific programme on human rights and sustainable development. Current research interests concern the role of local authorities in addressing climate- and disaster-related migration and displacement, and how human rights law can contribute to building resilience to pandemic risk.
Matthew holds a PhD in Public International Law from Lund University (2018) and a MA in Social Anthropology of Development from SOAS (1998). He practiced immigration and asylum law before entering academia. He is a member of the advisory committee of the Platform on Disaster Displacement, a member of the editorial board of the Yearbook of International Disaster Law, and a founding member of the Nordic Network on Climate Related Displacement and Mobility.
At Lund University, he convenes the LLM course on human rights law, the environment and climate change, and lectures on international refugee law and international human rights law at the Faculty of Law. He also lectures on the MSc programme in Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation at the Department of Risk Management and Societal Safety.
Matthew is also actively engaged in international collaboration initiatives and is currently contributing technical expertise on human rights-based approaches to disaster risk reduction across eight countries in Asia in collaboration with the Asia Disaster Preparedness Center, Stockholm Environment Institute and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency.
Read more about Matthew’s work here.
Nordic Norms, Natural Disasters, and International Protection: Swedish and Finnish Practice in European Perspective (Nordic Journal of International Law, 2022, with Russell Garner)
Pandemic Preparedness and Response: National COVID-19 Law and Policy in Human Rights Perspective (RWI 2021, with Elina Hammarström)
The project entails ground level empirical research focusing on local people’s experiences of municipal-level responses to Covid-19 in a multi-level governance framework, combined with the development of knowledge products designed to share insights and promote reflection and discussion within and between stakeholder groups. The research seeks to engage predominantly with individual residents and their representatives in civil society, together with local government actors, and will be designed in a manner that integrates constructively with existing network-based initiatives. Insights are expected to be relevant to actors at local, national, regional, and international levels.
This new initiative focusing on ground-level impacts of pandemic risk reduction, preparedness and response builds on insights derived in the pilot project conducted in 2020, and is intended as an early step in the development of a larger programme promoting building forward better with a human rights-based approach that integrates key elements from the post-2015 international frameworks, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the New Urban Agenda.
This project, supported by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund, and in collaboration with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights in Vienna, examines Swedish and Austrian judicial decisions in cases where disasters and other adverse impacts of climate change feature as part of the claim. The project sets out to improve understanding of judicial responses to claims for international protection in this context and to make recommendations that are relevant for domestic as well as wider European and international audiences, including policymakers.
This project, supported by the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), is collaborative initiative between the Asia Disaster Preparedness Center, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, that promotes and supports the identification and development of rights-based and gender equal approaches to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation across Asia and the Pacific.
The Future of Human Rights (2020-2021)
This project, supported by the Pufendorf Institute at Lund University, brings together academics from a range of disciplines including law, disaster risk management, philosophy, sociology, and human geography to explore the future of human rights by exchanging perspectives on the origins and purpose of the concept and sharing insights across intersecting themes including migration, authoritarianism, and economic globalisation. These themes are framed against a backdrop of global social and ecological processes under umbrella concepts of digitalization and the Anthropocene. The project is designed to generate ideas and identify interconnections through multi-disciplinary collaboration.
This project, supported by the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), brought together researchers from ten countries across Asia and the Pacific to examine the relationship between international and national-level law and policy relating to displacement in the context of disasters and climate change, and the protection of people from and during displacement and the facilitation of durable solutions. Adopting a human rights-based approach, the research consolidated key international standards and guidelines relating to displacement in the context of disasters and climate change and developed a tool for systematically analysing national legal and policy frameworks. This desk research was complemented by field research that examined one particular instance of disaster displacement, identifying promising practices as well as challenges to the implementation of national and international standards. Key findings are contained in a series of national law and policy reports, submissions to international initiatives including the UN High Level Panel on Internal Displacement and the 2020 UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally-displaced persons consultation on displacement in the context slower onset adverse impacts of climate change, and academic publications including and edited volume and a contribution to the special edition on internal displacement published in the journal Refugee Survey Quarterly. More information about the project is available at https://rwi.lu.se/disaster-displacement.
This research has provided a foundation for the collaborative development of practical, blended learning modules promoting human rights-based and gender equal approaches to addressing displacement risk.
Image: John Towner, Unsplash