Climate change and statelessness


In its ‘Global Appeal 2018-2019’, UNHCR again highlighted the far-reaching and manifold problems relating to climate change: ‘Climate change and disasters will continue to contribute to the scale and complexity of human displacement in the future. Their effects can exacerbate already fragile situations and can fuel conflict over depleted resources. People already displaced by conflict can be forced to move again when disasters strike, or be forced to move away from living areas because of the adverse effects of climate change. Their ability to return can also be limited if their homes become inhospitable’.


While the report primarily stresses the effects of climate change on forced displacement, the impact on statelessness will be considerably too. This has already been described by UNHCR in previous reports on, for example, ‘sinking island states’ whose populations would be obliged to permanently leave their home countries. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that one of the regions most immediately affected by climate change and therefore possible future instances of statelessness, namely Southeast Asia, is also where over 40 per cent of the world’s stateless persons already reside.


Author: Dr. Olivier Vonk

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