Moving beyond ‘climate refugees’: Readying law, policy and practice for displacement in a warming world

19 October 2021, 5.30-6.30pm AEDT

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When people are on the move from the impacts of disasters or climate change, how does the law help or hinder them? Is refugee law useful? Human rights law? Migration law? What about regional free movement agreements? How is individual agency enhanced or eroded by legal frameworks? What about people who move but don’t cross an international border, and what about people who can’t move at all? Our experts will reflect on how these questions are answered across different times and places.


Bruce Burson

New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal

Bruce Burson is the manager of the refugee and protection stream at the New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal for which he has written many of its leading decisions, including in relation to protection, disasters, and climate change. He is a Senior Research Associate at the Refugee Law Initiative, University of London. Bruce also works as an international legal consultant specialising in human mobility in the context of disasters and climate change. He is currently acting as Specialist Climate Mobility Advisor to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as an expert consultant to the International Federation of the Red Cross. Bruce is a member of the International Law Association Committee on International Law and Sea-Level Rise, the Advisory Committee of the Platform on Disaster Displacement and the Technical Working Group on Human Mobility of the Pacific Resilience Partnership. He is the author of a number of articles, book chapters and technical reports.

Lucy Daxbacher

Head of Mission to the Republic of Uganda & Program Manager Protocols on Free Movement of Persons and Transhumance, IGAD


Lucy Daxbacher is a diplomat and migration governance expert. She has a broad experience in diplomacy, regional integration, free movement of person’s regimes, forced displacement, labour migration governance, and stabilisation programmes across East, West and the Horn of Africa. In her current role at IGAD, she works in the landscape of regular and irregular migration, cyclical conflict, climate change, natural disasters and mass displacement across the IGAD Region. She has over 20 years experience of working in social and political processes towards good governance, security, access to justice, safe livelihoods and protection of vulnerable populations, including displaced persons and migrants. She has worked in collaboration with a wide range of national governments, regional economic organisations, civil society organisations, and development partners. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Sector Planning and Management from Makerere University, is an alumna of Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Stadt Schleining Austria, UN ILO International Training Centre (labour governance) and Galilee International Management Institute (Diplomacy and Security Studies).

Walter Kälin

Envoy of the Chair, Platform on Disaster Displacement


Walter Kälin is professor emeritus for international and (Swiss) constitutional law, University of Bern, Switzerland. He served as Representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, as a member of the UN Human Rights Committee and as Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Commission on the situation of human rights in Iraqi occupied Kuwait. He is the present envoy of the Chair of the Platform on Disaster Displacement and former Envoy of the Chairmanship of the Nansen Initiative on disaster-induced cross-border displacement. Currently, he also serves as a member of the Expert Advisory Group to the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement as well as a member of the ILA Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise.

Caroline Zickgraf

Deputy Director, The Hugo Observatory, University of Liège

@CKZickgraf @Hugo_Obs

Caroline Zickgraf is Deputy Director of The Hugo Observatory: Environment, Migration, Politics in the Department of Geography and Research Fellow at UR-SPHERES at the University of Liège. Her main areas of research are the migratory impacts of climate change on coastal populations, immobility, and migration and sustainability issues, primarily in West Africa. In addition to her research, she teaches environment and migration and environmental politics at University of Liège, l’Institut des Hautes Études des communications Sociales (IHECS) in Brussels, and Sciences Po’s Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA). Currently, she is part of the scientific coordination team for the HABITABLE project, financed by the European Commission, and the governance lead for the MISTY project on migration, transformation, and sustainability, a T2S programme sponsored by NORFACE and the Belmont Forum. She holds a BA (Michigan State University), an MPhil in migration history (Leiden University) and a PhD in Political and Social Sciences (University of Liège).

Chair: Tamara Wood

Visiting Fellow, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law


Tamara Wood is a Visiting Fellow at the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law and a Postdoctoral Researcher (external) at the RefMig project, Hertie School, Berlin. She is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Platform on Disaster Displacement, Coordinating Case Law Editor for the International Journal of Refugee Law, Research Affiliate at the Refugee Law Initiative, University of London, Visiting Researcher at the University of Tasmania, and a former Visiting Researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. She researches in the fields of international refugee law, regional refugee law (with a focus on Africa), free movement agreements, complementary pathways to protection, and displacement in the context of natural hazards, disasters and climate change. She has published widely on refugee protection and forced migration, including in leading international law journals. She has acted as a consultant to UNHCR, the Platform on Disaster Displacement, the Nansen Initiative on Disaster-Induced Cross-Border Displacement, Institute for Security Studies Africa and the World Bank.

Image credit: UNHCR/Vivian Tan