climate displacement

Nordic Norms, Natural Disasters, and International Protection

By: Matthew Scott, Russell Garner

Publisher: Brill

ISSN: 0902-7351

Keywords: climate change, Europe

In international law, new norms can emerge through the identification and development of effective practices. This article examines Swedish, Finnish and, less closely, other Nordic countries’ contributions to the slow process of norm emergence in relation to cross-border displacement in the context of disasters and climate change. It focuses on Sweden and Finland’s early adoption, and subsequent judicial application, of a legal provision establishing a right to international protection for persons unable to return home in the context of an ‘environmental disaster’.

As calls are growing for European countries to take more concerted action to address this phenomenon, we examine why this pioneering approach never became an ‘effective practice’, and how this experience can nonetheless inform the emergence of new norms at the European level. Drawing on norm development theory, we argue that progressive interpretation and application of existing international protection standards, combined with the initiation of a European consultative process dedicated to identification and development of effective practices that are attuned to regional displacement dynamics, is more likely to contribute to norm emergence than the creation of new categories of international protection as attempted in Sweden and Finland.

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Photo: Martin Olsen, Unsplash

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