Improving Solutions for the Asian-Pacific ‘Sinking Islands’ Paradigm

by Imaan Budhram
3012 words



Legal Challenges of the ‘Sinking Islands’ Paradigm

Legal Solutions for Kiribati

Clash Between Western and Asian-Pacific Discourse




            This paper aimed to research which legal and sociological aspects were necessary for creating effective solutions for the Asian-Pacific Islanders. Firstly, the paper highlighted the crucial legal issue of statehood and the associated rights (e.g. fishing rights) and obligations that derive from that status. However, it became clear that the legal options for massive migration of Asian-Pacific Islanders are quite limited. Asian-Pacific Islanders cannot be recognized under the Climate Refugee Convention and international maritime law needs to be flexible for their sovereignty to remain untouched (e.g. by application of the principle of ‘presumption of continuity of state existence’). The paper has mentioned possible legal solutions that can be used, but for any of these solutions to be successful other states must be cooperative towards the Asian-Pacific Islanders states. Furthermore, the legal personality of these states must not be lost as this would negatively affect the order within international law. In that sense states also have a responsibility to continue formally recognizing the sovereignty of the Asian-Pacific Island states. Not only would this prevent displaced Islanders from losing their legal rights and citizenship, but it would also preserve their cultural identity. Nevertheless, this alone will not be sufficient for an effective solution since the Asian-Pacific Islanders community has a strong attachment to their culture and land. Hence, broadening the ‘refugee’ definition and applying the ‘refugee’ status to the Asian-Pacific Islanders should not be considered a possible solution. It dismisses the sovereignty of the Asian-Pacific Islanders and has negative implications. After all, the adaptation efforts of the Asian-Pacific Islands states demonstrate that they are undertaking a more active approach towards the climate change issue. This is in contrast to the approach of the international community whose perspective is that the Island states are helpless and that they thus should be provided with a ‘refugee’ status. Therefore, for a successful solution to be created it is also of great importance to understand cultural implications (e.g. people’s connection to their homeland) and incorporate elements that address the aspect of cultural identity when creating global solutions.