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11th Refugee Law Initiative Annual Seminar Series: Human Mobility, Natural Hazards and Policy Responses

11th Refugee Law Initiative Annual Seminar Series

Academic Year 2020-21 Webinars 

Human Mobility, Natural Hazards and Policy Responses

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How can law and policy engage with the impact of natural hazards on human mobility?

Environmental processes shape human mobility, with rising displacement, migration and planned relocation, within countries and even across borders, as well as immobility for specific groups. Natural hazards that shape mobility in such contexts encompass the slow-onset impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, as well as sudden-onset disasters linked to storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and even biological hazards like the COVID-19 pandemic.

This webinar series brings together diverse scholarly and practitioner perspectives on how law and policy can respond to this global challenge. Its six topical sessions will be broadcast live in an interactive format via Zoom to enhance participation from across the globe. Each session will focus on a key aspect of the challenges and policy responses to human mobility in this context. Three sessions will take place in Oct-Dec 2020 and three in Jan-March 2021, with each session lasting for 1.5 hours.

The series is convened by the Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) of the University of London and its Internal Displacement Research Programme, in partnership with the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD).


Sessions and Speakers:

  1. Wednesday 7 October 2020, 1.30pm UK

Conceptualising policy – do ‘climate refugees’ or ‘environmental migrants’ really exist?

What are the terms used to label people whose reasons for moving are related to floods, tropical storms, droughts, glacier melting, earthquakes and other natural hazards? ‘Environmental migrants’? ‘Climate refugees’? ‘Disaster displaced persons’? During this webinar, leading scholars will share critical reflections on how we frame the issue of human mobility in ‘environmental’ contexts and its policy implications. The discussion will be moderated by David James Cantor, founding Director of the Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Speakers include:

  • Walter Kaelin, Platform on Disaster Displacement – introduction to conceptualising displacement in the context of disasters
  • Koko Warner, UNFCCC Secretariat – climate change impact on demographic processes such as mobility
  • Francois Gemenne, Hugo Observatory – the politics of climate refugees
  • Max Martin, University of Sussex – going beyond binaries (e.g. sudden- vs. slow-onset disasters, forced vs. voluntary migration, trapped people vs. those wanting to stay, permanent vs. temporary stay) 
  1. Wednesday 11 November 2020, 1.30pm UK

Data and knowledge on human mobility in the context of natural hazards

Moderator: Atle Solberg, PDD

State of the art on empirical evidence around diverse forms of human mobility and immobility in the context of environmental challenges, including empirical challenges, data and trends and projections for the future.

  • Justin Ginnetti, Independent Consultant – internal disaster displacement data: what do we know and what do we not know?
  • Caroline Zickgraf, Hugo Observatory – notions of habitability and social tipping points for understanding mobility in the context of climate change and slow-onset events
  • Kanta Kumari Rigaud, World Bank – Expanding the Groundswell model on climate induced migration to inform policy dialogue and action
  • Luiza de Moura Pallone, South American Network for Environmental Migrations – case study of Brazil and what we know about the empirical situation
  1. Wednesday 9 December 2020, 1.30pm UK

Global policy debates, mobility and natural hazards

Moderator: Nina Birkeland, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

How is the issue of human mobility in the context of disasters, environmental degradation and climate change treated in the global policy debate (including the Global Compacts for Migration and on Refugees, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC and the Task Force on Displacement)?

  • Saleemul Huq, International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh – disaster displacement as loss and damage under the UNFCCC
  • Dina Ionesco, International Organization for Migration – managing migration and protecting rights in times of climate change
  • Andrew Harper, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – the meaning and scope of climate action under the GCR and how to protect the disaster displaced
  • Ezekiel Simperingham, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – preparing for and responding to disaster displacement
  1. Wednesday 13 January 2021, 1.30pm UK

Internal displacement, migration and planned relocation in the context of natural hazards

Moderator:  Greta Zeender, Secretariat, UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement

How is the issue of ‘environmental’ (im)mobility within countries is addressed in law, policy and strategies at international and national levels (including IDP law, disaster law etc)?

  • Elena Correa, Independent Consultant– national policy development on planned relocations in the Americas and the Caribbean
  • Tasneem Siddiqui, Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, University of Bangladesh national strategy on the management of disaster- and climate-induced internal displacement in Bangladesh
  • Matthew Scott, Raoul Wallenberg Institute – ten-country study on Asia-Pacific and implications for debate on internal displacement
  • Romola Adeola, University of Pretoria – responding to development and disaster displacement in Africa 
  1. Wednesday 10 February 2021, 1.30pm UK

Legal responses to cross-border ‘environmental’ mobility

Moderator: Atle Solberg, PDD

How can law respond to ‘environmental’ cross-border (im)mobility at global, regional and national levels, including refugee and human rights law and migration law?

  • Jane McAdam, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law – international law frameworks [will present by video and Sanjula Weerasinghe will respond in Q&A]
  • Richard Bedford, Waikato University – migration and law in the Pacific context
  • David Cantor, RLI – national law and free movement – lessons from the Americas
  • Lucy Daxbacher, Intergovernmental Authority on Development Secretariat (IGAD) – disaster displacement and the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons in the IGAD Region
  1. Wednesday 17 March 2021, 1.30pm UK

Implications for policy of a (post-?) COVID-19 world…

Moderators: David Cantor, RLI / Walter Kaelin, PDD

 What are the implications of COVID-19, as a particular kind of a natural (biological) hazard, and its impact and implications for global trends and debates addressed in previous sessions?

  • Paul Spiegel, Johns Hopkins University – pandemics, humanitarian emergencies and forcibly displaced populations
  • Mihir Bhatt, All India Disaster Mitigation Institute – the COVID 19 pandemic, displacement, and the paradox of social distancing related challenges.
  • Aimée-Noël Mbiyozo, Institute for Security Studies Africa – migrating as a safety net in the times of disasters and epidemics

Useful Information

Learn more about our partner the Refugee Law Initiative

Download the programme for the series:

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Download the series flyer:

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Download the flyer for the first event on 7 October 2020

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Learn more about PDD’s work in our Workplan 2019-2022:

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