Environmental Justice and the Rights of Ecological Refugees

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Climate change and other environmental problems are increasingly leading to the displacement of populations leading to the displacement of populations from their homelands, whether through drought, flooding, famine or other causes. Worse, there is currently no protection in international law for people made refugees by such means.

Following on from her previous explorations of environmental justice as it relates to future generations and indigenous peoples, Laura Westra now turns her attention to the plight of ecological refugees. In Part I, Westra provides an overview of what defines an ecological refugee and their present legal status. Part II goes into greater depth as to who the vulnerable are and what protection they have in international law. Part III looks to the future, advocating a comprehensive approach to the problem. With extensive examples and analysis, this is a compelling treatment that will be indispensable for legal professionals, government and business leaders, academics and students of the role of law in the protection of the rights of refugees.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'International law relating to refugees and internally displaced persons is in need of a complete overhaul—The present study, with its thorough survey of refugee problems and the shortcomings of legal instruments, provides an important basis for such a reconsideration of this branch of the law.'
John Dugard, UN Special Rapporteur on Diplomatic Protection

'Laura Westra has performed a valuable function in expanding our understanding of law with regard to this grand-scale and largely unprecedented phenomenon.'
Norman Myers, Fellow of the James Martin 21st Century School, University of Oxford

'This book is essential reading for every professional working in the fields of environmental law, philosophy and ethics today, as well as every person who is seriously concerned for a just and sustainable future for humanity on planet Earth.'
J. Ronald Engel, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Social Ethics, Meadville/Lombard Theological School

'A vibrant plea for a convention on behalf of all environmentally displaced persons - voluntary or forced, national or foreign - recognizing their right to life and dignity, intrinsically tied to their right to an ecologically and humanly viable environment.'
Michel Prieur, Emeritus Professor of Law, Vice-President of the Commission on Environmental Rights, IUCN

'Westra supports proposals for an overhaul of the system, principally the creation of a new instrument: a Framework Covention for Global Health and a new international body: a World Agency for Environmentally-Displaced Persons [...] this book is surely a significant academic contribution to steps in that direction.'
James Corbet Burcher, Environmental Law Foundation

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844077977
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 6/28/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Westra is Professor Emerita (Philosophy) at University of Windsor, PhD in Law at Osgoode Hall Law School and Adjunct Professor of Social Science at York University, Canada. She is the author of 20 books, including Environmental Justice and the Rights of Unborn and Future Generations (Earthscan, 2006) and Environmental Justice and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Earthscan, 2007), and has contributed articles and chapters to over 80 journals and books.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Ved P. Nanda xi

Acknowledgements xiii

Prologue xv

Part I Present Refugee Law: Political and Legal Issues and Problems

1 The Question of Environmental Refugees 3

Introduction - The Recognition of Environmental Refugees 3

The Question of Environmental Refugees 6

A Question of Definition? 11

The Legal Status of Internally Displaced Persons 12

Persecution and the Problem of Intent 14

Indigenous and Non-Indigenous: Any Solutions? 20

2 International Assistance and the Refugee Convention's Five Grounds of Persecution 27

Introduction to the Five Grounds for Refugee Status to Establish Persecution 27

Persecution or Lack of Protection? 29

The Role of Racial Background in Refugee and IDP Issues 32

Nationality 34

Religion and Particular Social Groups 36

Political Opinions 38

Further Considerations on the Rule of Law and the New Global Politics: The Appeal of Limoges 39

3 State Protection and State Responsibility to Ecological Refugees 47

Introduction 47

The Responsibility of States 48

The Present Crisis: How to Re-conceive Refugee Law? 54

Forced Relocation and the ATCA Litigation 'Third Wave' 65

International Law and Domestic Law 68

Part II Ecological Refugees and Refugee Law: The interface

4 The Five Grounds Revisited: Who Are the Vulnerable? 79

Introduction: Environmental Migrants - Cause and Impacts 79

Race and Ethnic Background: The Implications 82

The Foundations of Basic Human Rights 86

Religious Beliefs: Holy Sites for Indigenous and Local Communities 90

State Protection or State Complicity? 94

5 Ecological Refugees: Protection and Rights in International Law 105

State Protection- Refugees and the Right to Health and Normal Function 105

Ecological Refugees: The Emergent Realities 108

Ecological and Economic Oppression as Crimes against Humanity 112

Ecological Refugees and Indigenous Refugees: Similarities and Differences 117

Part III The Way Forward: Existing Legal Instruments and New Provisions

6 International Law beyond the Convention on the Status of Refugees 135

Introduction: Genocide or Crimes against Humanity? 135

The Need to Re-conceptualize the Rule of Law 139

Climate Change and Public Health: New Categories of International Law 141

Environmental Problems and Health Impacts: A Missing Link 149

Ecological Refugees and Ecological Rights in International Law: Lacunae and Under-Inclusions 152

The Water Conflict in the Middle East and the Question of Palestinian Refugees 155

7 Towards a Comprehensive Approach to Protecting Refugees and the Internally Displaced 175

Understanding the Issues: The Aetiology of Crimes against Humanity 175

State, Corporate and International Responsibility Before and After the Fact: A Review 176

Environmentally Displaced Persons: A Convention for their Protection 180

A Convention Modelled on the Convention against Torture? 186

Towards a Comprehensive Approach: Ecological Integrity for Global Governance 195

Global Governance for Ecological Integrity 201

Appendix 1 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) 215

Appendix 2 Other Relevant Instruments 225

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) 225

Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (1967) 228

United Nations Declaration on Territorial Asylum (1967) 230

United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) 231

Constitution of the International Organization for Migration (1987) 239

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) 244

Declaration of States Parties to the 1951 Convention and/or Its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (2001) 256

Appendix 3 Draft Convention on the International Status of Environmentally-Displaced Persons 259

List of acronyms and abbreviations 269

List of cases 271

List of documents 275

Bibliography 279

Index 293

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