Environmental Injustice, Displacement and Human Rights: Assessing the level of Protection and Responsibility [PhD] (completed)

Isabel Mota Borges' PhD project aims to assess to which extent environmental displaced people are protected by existing international human rights guarantees, and who is responsible for providing legal protection.


Over the past years the debate around environmental change and degradation has become a hot topic in the political agenda. In spite of the subject’s controversial nature, it is generally perceived as one of the greatest political, social, economic and legal challenges of our time. This is due to its continuous impact, amongst others but especially, on human displacement and migration. Today it is estimated that by 2050 the number of environmentally induced migrants will be 200 million.[1]

While migration to escape an environment temporarily or permanently disrupted is a critical aspect of the issue, the current international legal regime disregards the correlation between environmental degradation and human migration.[2]

Research issues

The analysis will consider the current gap and/or legal tension between the existing international legal standards for the protection of environmental displaced people (both temporary and permanent). How can forced movement from environmental degradation be addressed from a legal perspective? Are the current legal frameworks per se adequate to protect “environmental displaced persons (or refugees)”? Should they be adapted or complemented? Or should there be a new legal instrument to confront the issue of environmental displacement? To what extent can the nature of these proposals be of international or regional character? The challenge in this study is to devise who is responsible for environmental displacement, if there is a collective responsibility for environmental displaced people and if a criterion of environmental justice be at the forefront of any sort of legal protection.

Project Period

February 2011- February 2014


Norwegian Research Council


Beate Sjåfjell, University of Oslo, Norway

Yutaka Arai, University of Kent, United Kingdom


[1] Brown 2007; See United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification for further developments on the correlation between desertification and migration:

[2] Lopez 2007 p.367


Published Mar. 30, 2012 10:42 AM - Last modified Nov. 9, 2018 1:27 PM


Isabel Mota Borges