An analysis of the normative framework providing for human environmentally induced migration in SADC
Maas, Catherina Aletta
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Environmentally induced migration has been a contentious topic over the last two decades. Estimates show that over 30 million people worldwide are annually forced to migrate due to serious environmental degradation, natural disasters and depletion of natural resources. Thus the environment is irrefutably changing, and clear linkages can be drawn between environmental change and human mobility. Africa‘s developing status and its vulnerability in the context of environmental shocks compels research on prospective impacts and outcomes in order to develop proper mitigation and adaptation strategies, especially in Southern African Development Community (SADC) where the likelihood of protection measures being successfully implemented is relatively low. This dissertation is aimed at providing the reader with a detailed analysis of the regional normative framework regulating the issue of environmentally induced migration in SADC. Because environmental migrants are not considered to be ―refugees‖ in international law and on account of the fact that many policy makers and practitioners have their reservations as regards even acknowledging the existence of environmental migrants, protection and regulation in this regard is understandably lacking. A comprehensive framework is nonetheless required to regulate this phenomenon as it prompts serious security and sovereignty concerns. Until quite recently, most African countries had not even put in place national migration policies. Although many states have policies in place now, most have not yet been fully and effectively implemented. The normative framework governing specifically environmentally induced migration in SADC similarly renders rather disappointing results. Most of the applicable instruments do not directly raise the issue and the provisions indirectly touching upon the subject matter are subject to interpretation. A binding protocol must therefore be adopted by SADC Member States embracing elements contained in the instruments comprising the current framework. Such a protocol will however have to be liberal enough to acknowledge and provide for environmentally induced migration in its entirety whilst conservative enough so as not to undermine protection regimes for refugees in the true sense of the word. Conflicting interests and sovereignty considerations will, however, undoubtedly continue to hinder progress in this regard. The way forward is therefore away from ultimate sovereignty preservation and toward a regionalised approach where human rights no longer take a backseat.
- Law