When the land no longer provides : human rights and the status of “climate refugees” in the Sahel

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Shynn, Daniel George
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Climate change disproportionately impacts the enjoyment of human rights in climate-vulnerable areas around the world, one example of which is the Sahel region of Africa. This thesis focuses on the human rights of environmentally displaced persons in this region, commonly labelled as “climate refugees” but lacking a legal definition. Terminological ambiguities over the concept of “climate refugees” are expounded and situated within the unique geography and history of the Sahel region. The impact that climate change has on the Sahel region, especially slow onset effects, are assessed and aligned with the causes of involuntary migration, noting that migration is a regular phenomenon in the Sahel and has long been an adaptation method. Relevant international and regional legal approaches are examined, establishing that although legal mechanisms which could protect the human rights of environmentally displaced persons exist, gaps remain in the implementation of these mechanisms. This information is utilised to propose a human rights-based approach that favours regional legal frameworks and local cooperation in lieu of an international legal definition for “climate refugees”. Using an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates international law, philosophy, and history perspectives, this thesis contributes to theoretical and practical understandings on the relationship between climate change and human mobility and promotes the value of regional context and capabilities when implementing a human rights-based approach.
Second semester University: University of Ljubljana . Awarded thesis 2022/2023
climatic changes, displaced persons, migrations, sub-Saharan region, Africa
Global Campus Europe (EMA) theses 2022/2023