Electoral Rights of Environmentally Displaced Persons
"The impacts of climate change on conflict, displacement and migration are increasingly far-reaching and apparent. Oftentimes, when people are forced from their homes, their ability to exercise their political rights becomes imperiled. It is imperative that climate refugees’ rights to fully participate in the political life of their communities, and in particular the right to vote, are respected. IFES is committed to working with partners towards this objective. This important paper breaks new ground in describing some of the challenges in this area, as well as steps to be taken to ensure that the political rights of environmentally displaced people are protected."
– IFES President and CEO Anthony Banbury
Environmental disasters such as fires, droughts, floods, hurricanes and rising sea levels displace more and more people each year. According to the University of Oxford, the scale of displacement related to climate change is difficult to forecast but has been “estimated at between 50 and 200 million people by 2050, mostly in developing countries.” Climate change, other environmental crises and migration resulting from environmental displacement increase the likelihood of insecurity and conflict – and put democratic rights at risk.
How can key stakeholders plan for climate-related risks to democracy? How can environmentally displaced persons participate safely and equally in political life?
A new paper from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Electoral Rights of Environmentally Displaced Persons, examines these questions and provides recommendations for election management bodies, governments, international organizations, political parties, the media, civil society organizations and displaced persons.
Environmental challenges can exacerbate pre-existing vulnerabilities, including marginalization due to race, gender, disability and other identity factors. Widely ratified international treaties and resolutions obligate the state to provide accessible electoral processes, including special measures for women, persons with disabilities, youth, Indigenous peoples and racial and other minorities who may be at increased risk of marginalization. They also are critical agents to address the consequences of climate change.
Electoral Rights of Environmentally Displaced Persons emphasizes how environmental challenges can exacerbate pre-existing vulnerabilities, including marginalization due to race, gender, disability and other identity factors. Displaced persons are key stakeholders. Those most affected by environmental problems need to be able to vote, run for office and engage with candidates and elected representatives to influence agendas, challenge policies and hold governments accountable. Political participation is particularly important in integrating them into their new environments to avoid conflict with host communities. Displaced persons can also bring skills, insights and talents that benefit their new communities.
Authors: Vasu Mohan, Regional Director, Asia-Pacific; Hannah Roberts, Senior Elections Specialist
Published on April 1, 2021.