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The Concept of Climate Migration

Advocacy and its Prospects

Benoît Mayer

This timely book offers a unique interdisciplinary inquiry into the prospects of different political narratives on climate migration. It identifies the essential angles on climate migration – the humanitarian narrative, the migration narrative and the climate change narrative – and assesses their prospects. The author contends that although such arguments will influence global governance, they will not necessarily achieve what advocates hope for. He discusses how the weaknesses of the concept of “climate migration” are likely to be utilized in favour of repressive policies against migration or for the defence of industrial nations against perceived threats from the Third World.
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Chapter 2: The humanitarian narrative – human rights, global justice, and the limits of humanitarian reason

Benoît Mayer


A humanitarian narrative construes climate migration as an issue of human suffering. It is largely accepted that each state must protect the human rights of individuals within its jurisdiction. However, certain circumstances such as a natural disaster, which are exacerbated by climate change, may result in a state being unable to effectively protect its population. Migration may result from inadequate protection in the place of origin, and it may also cause greater protection needs during displacement or at the place of destination. This chapter explores existing norms on human rights and humanitarian assistance, and it suggests some reflections on the prospects and dangers of a humanitarian argument in relation with climate migration.

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