Migration and human rights in the wake of climate change: A policy perspective over the Pacific

Cosmin Corendea
United Nations University
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This policy report highlights the main findings of the research project by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and the AXA Research Fund. The research explores the connections between the international response to climate change, migration and human rights. Taking the Pacific region as its geographic focus, Fiji and Vanuatu – two of the countries most affected by climate change – serve as case studies to further examine the process of international environmental law implementation in the region. The existence of two legal systems in the Pacific islands – the custom or traditional law originally derived from indigenous communities and the national or state law, introduced by colonial powers – is a potential source of conflicting perspectives that could challenge the implementation of international standards. This report aims to look at these potential discrepancies, identifying gaps and legal risks, and analyzing their impact on human rights, migration and the overall response to climate change. The findings build on field research conducted in Fiji and Vanuatu, countries chosen due to the similarities of their legal systems. This research comprised a sample of 39 surveys answered by the local population, as well as semi-structured interviews with representatives of the government and international bodies in the region, legal experts and chief police officers. In light of the findings, this report formulates seven policy recommendations for both the Pacific island states and the international community with which to further advance in successfully addressing climate change and climate related migration, building on custom and state law from a human rights perspective.