ELI Offers Insight on “Migration With Dignity” in Journal of Disaster Research

April 2022

(Washington, D.C.): Since the beginning of time, people have been on the move in hopes of a better life. Whether people relocate voluntarily in search of better jobs, or they are forced to leave their homes because of war or environmental displacement, all migrating people deserve to be treated with dignity. Sadly, human rights and human dignity are too often treated as an afterthought to the migration process.

This month, the Journal of Disaster Research released a special issue that offers a legal and policy framework for supporting “migration with dignity.” The framework builds upon the concept first advanced by the former President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, who sought to preserve the pride and sense of community of those forced to leave their homelands due to environmental displacement—in the case of Kiribati, rising sea level. The special issue articulates the legal framework, provides a methodology for applying the framework in specific circumstances, and provides examples of how to apply the migration with dignity framework across a number of contexts, including climate change, the migration cycle, and pandemics.

The special issue captured collaborative work led by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) undertaken in partnership with the Dignity Rights Initiative, the Delaware Law School, the UN International Organization for Migration, and the Ocean Policy Research Institute. Carl Bruch, Director of International Programs for ELI, contributed to the issue, co-authoring two articles: Migration With Dignity: A Legal and Policy Framework; and The Methodology and Application of a Migration With Dignity Framework, along with Shanna N. McClain, NASA Disasters Program Manager and former ELI Visiting Scientist, who also co-edited the volume.

  • Migration With Dignity: A Legal and Policy Framework provides policy and legal options for governments, policymakers, and NGOs to consider the dignity of migrants while they move. The article helps readers understand and consider a variety of migration contexts, and it identifies what policies are working or where gaps exist in order to develop more accommodating solutions. It also provides examples for how to apply the framework across multiple contexts. Shanna N. McClain, Erin Daly, James May, Yuko Hamada, Miko Maekawa, Nagisa Shiiba, Mikiyasu Nakayama, and Glykeria Tsiokanou co-authored.
  • The Methodology and Application of a Migration With Dignity Framework provides the necessary methodology for considering the social and legal dimensions of the framework. The article also provides examples for how to apply the framework across multiple contexts. Shanna N. McClain and Mai Fujii co-authored.

The special issue also touches on the intergenerationality of immigrants in terms of how migrants adapt or assimilate into the receiving society, and how the mass media plays a role in the perceptions of migrants and the perceived problems associated with immigration by host countries. The issue is available for free download at: https://www.fujipress.jp/jdr/dr/.

ELI works to improve local, national, and international capacity to manage environmental displacement and migration through its Environmental Displacement and Migration program. This effort builds on existing expertise in climate change adaptation, environmental emergencies, and environmental peacebuilding to strengthen policy, capacity, and practice. ELI seeks to strengthen legal protections for people displaced across national borders due to changes in their physical environment, using analysis, dialogue, technical assistance, and capacity-building to catalyze and inform policy and practice.

Carl Bruch and Shanna N. McClain are available for interview.

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