Riders on the Storm: How Professionals Enable and Constrain Migration due to Climate Change

Niels Madsen

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Climate change is expected to lead to an increase in the number of people who are displaced from their homes, and therefore have to migrate either within the home country or across borders. No institution, legal framework or network holds formal authority to alleviate this issue, despite these challenges being widely debated in public discourse. This thesis maps the actors and institutions attempting to exercise control over this emerging issue, guided by the research question “Who exercises issue control over climate displaced persons, and what does this imply for future policy?” The answer to this question is rooted in the emerging literature on the importance of professional interactions in international relations. Using social network analysis, a core network of actors revolving around the UNHCR, the IOM, and the crucial Nansen Initiative is analysed, focusing on how specific professionals have risen to prominence within the network. Complementing this network analysis with qualitative content analysis, the centrality of actor positions is linked to policy reform proposals and substantive claims to expertise within this area. Three conclusions stand out. Firstly, the Nansen Initiative has managed to act as a boundary organisation, uniting practitioners, academics, and legal scholars in a linked ecology working towards reaching a set of non-binding principles to be adopted by the end of 2015. One consequence of the Nansen Initiative’s focus has been a shift away from the proposal of a new international treaty with corresponding legal obligations for developed countries towards a negotiated compromise building on existing institutions and mechanisms. Secondly, the key actors in the network have reframed the question of climate displacement as one characterized by complexity and multi-causality, thus removing the issue from a discourse of historical responsibility and moral obligations, implying that activists will face difficulty in campaigning on the issue, thereby leaving control over the issue to the identified network. Thirdly, actors working on the funding of migration flows as well as adaptation funding to avoid displacement in the first place are poorly represented in the network. Because these professional skills and relations are absent, additional funding is unlikely to flow to this issue, which will instead be anchored in institutions that are already overstretched in terms of financial resources and political capital. In conclusion, this thesis shows how the network has pushed a definition of the issue that is unlikely to lead to substantial change from the status quo, thus leaving one of the key challenges of climate change without a durable political solution

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2015
Number of pages111