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Climate Change and Human Mobility (Online Course)

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    Climate Change and Human Mobility (10 January – 20 February, 2018)

    This course is also offered as part of the Professional Development Diploma on Human Rights and Forced Displacement.

    Course Description

    Migration has always been a way for humankind to react and adapt to changes in the natural environment, albeit often as a last resort. There is broad consensus today that ‘climate change’, also understood to encompass environmental degradation for the purpose of this course, is already driving human mobility in a number of settings and that this trend is likely to intensify in future. Although the term ‘climate refugees’ is often used in popular speech and the media, there is no such legal status in international law today. Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have recognized that migration, displacement and the planned relocation of populations out of harm’s way will all be forms of ‘adaptation’ to climate change. This six-week online course will engage students with the current thinking about the interaction between climate change and human mobility. It will examine the projected impacts of climate change and the typologies of migratory movements they are likely to provoke, before turning to the international law applicable to populations affected by climate change. The course will also introduce students to new State-led initiatives to improve the protection of people obliged to cross borders owing to the effects of disasters and the relevant players and processes. Finally, the course will examine how human mobility is treated in the Paris Climate Change Accord and relevant work streams in the UNFCCC process.
    The course is based on a dynamic pedagogy including reading materials, video clips, case studies, and interactive webinars with the instructor as well as officials of UNHCR.

    Course Outline

    Week 1: Understanding the Projected Impacts of Climate Change and Key Concepts: The State of the Evidence
    Week 2: Climate Change and Environmental Degradation as Drivers of Human Mobility: Current Thinking
    Week 3: Typologies of Movement and Applicable Legal Regimes and Human Rights Norms
    Week 4: Whither ‘Climate Refugees’? – The Nansen Protection Agenda on Disasters and Cross-Border Displacement and the Platform on Disaster Displacement
    Week 5: Some Case Studies on the Interaction between Climate Change and Human Mobility: Human Mobility as ‘Adaptation’ to Climate Change
    Week 6: Human Mobility in the Paris Climate Change Accord and the UNFCCC Process

    Who Should Apply

    The course is intended for staff members of the UN and other Inter-Governmental Organizations, Governmental agencies, and NGOs and others interested in issues related to climate change induced human mobility and its impact on human rights. Similarly, practitioners and academics working for protection of refugees, IDPs, Stateless persons, as well as in climate change mitigation and adaptation will benefit from this specialized course. Candidates should have a good written command of English and have high competence and comfort with computer and Internet use.

    About the Instructor

    Professor José Riera-Cézanne is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of International Law and Human Rights at UPEACE. He has just joined the faculty after 32 years of distinguished service with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), most recently as Special Adviser to the Assistant UN High Commissioner for Refugees (Protection). Professor Riera-Cézanne is a seasoned expert in multilateral consultations and negotiations relating to refugees and other populations of concern to UNHCR, as well humanitarian issues more broadly. His principal area of academic research is documenting the impacts of climate change on human mobility and identifying effective adaptation strategies and State policies to promote them. He brings to the UPEACE Human Rights Centre his in-depth knowledge of international refugee law and protection issues; international humanitarian law and norms relating to the protection of the world’s growing number of internally displaced persons; international law relating to statelessness and nationality; human rights law; international migration and efforts to improve global governance of international migration and refugee flows; climate change and its ramifications for migration, displacement and planned relocation of affected populations; humanitarian accountability; evaluations of humanitarian assistance; and the UN’s cooperation with faith-based actors in development and humanitarian interventions. Professor Riera-Cézanne holds degrees from Yale College (BA cum laude, SY ’77), Columbia Law School (JD ’81), the Parker School of International Law (Certificate in Public International Law ‘81). He has also worked towards a doctorate from the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland, and studied at The Hague Academy of International Law (Private international law and Public international law).

    Course Fee

    For Certificate: Fee for taking this course is USD 600. UPEACE students and almuni enrolling for the Certificate course are entitled to 30% discount on the fee.

    For Auditing: It is also possible to audit the course, in which case, participants will not receive a certificate. Auditors, however, will have access to all course material, be able to participate in the synchronous webinar sessions, and be able to monitor the online discussions of participants. The fee for auditing the course is USD 200.

    For Certificate and 2 Academic Credits: Participants are also able to take the course for two academic credits offered by UPEACE. The cost of taking the course for 2 academic credits is USD 1100.

    Application Procedure

    To apply, please send an email to along with your CV and a short Statement of Purpose (not more than 500 words) indicating the motivation for taking the course. Applicants will be contacted within three working days of the application. The course is limited to 25 participants.

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