A number of island nations (The Maldives, Kiribati, and Tuvalu) are disappearing. Their futures challenge the very notion of sovereignty, which, hitherto has depended on territoriality. What legal status should these nations have when they have lost their territory? How can they establish new territory? This paper examines the latest efforts to save these nations, particularly with regard to their future governing structures. The Maldives has proposed to purchase land in India; Kiribati has actually acquitted land on the Fiji Islands; and Tuvalu has established special economic status for its citizens in New Zealand.
First, we examine the prospects of extending the notion of political refugees, covered by various international conventions, to cover this new category of environmental refugees. We also evaluate the prospects of strengthening and extending the international duty to rescue individuals to a duty to rescue entire nations.
Second, we explore the idea of prospectively establishing environmental trusteeships (similar to the now defunct trusteeship system in the United Nations) within nations of certain regions. These could be models of environmentally sustainable areas, governed by principles of ecological democracy. The canaries used as warning signs could become bird (and human) sanctuaries.
Thomas Simon, Johns Hopkins University, United States
Stream: Social Sciences
This paper is part of the ACSS2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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