On Pre-training for Climate Change Induced Migration from the Pacific: Lessons from the Marshall Islands

Nagisa Yoshioka


This study aims to suggest another view of the so-called “climate refugee”, especially those from the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific Ocean. Although many studies have been conducted on the legal aspects of the climate refugees’ situations, little has been studied about how they succeed in re-establishing their livelihoods after relocation. Unlike migrations forced by other causes, the future migrations induced by sea level rise have a long lead time which gives the people involved the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to adjust to their new lives. This paper examines whether “pre-training” opportunities are sufficient in those countries from which climate refugees are most likely to come. The author focuses on the Republic of the Marshall Islands, one of the small island countries in the Pacific being threatened by environmental changes such as rising sea level, high tides, and drought. Due to a unique situation allowing the Marshallese people to move to the United States without a visa, many people do so each year under the free association partnership. However, some of these migrants fail to adjust to the United States and come back to their home islands, possibly due to a lack of skills. Given that more climate refugees are likely in the future, pre-training that provides essential skills to benefit future climate refugees is necessary. Through key informant interviews in the Marshall Islands, it seems that such training opportunities are currently limited, but have great potential to flourish.

Full Text:



Asian Development Bank. (2016). Pacific Approach, 2016-2020. Retrieved from https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/institutional-document/190666/rcs-pacific-2016-2020.pdf

Barnett, J. (2001). Adapting to climate change in Pacific Island countries: the problem of uncertainty. World Development, 29(6), 977-993. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0305-750X(01)00022-5

Biermann, F., & Boas, I. (2008). Protecting climate refugees: the case for a global protocol. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 50(6), 8-17.

Biermann, F., & Boas, I. (2010). Preparing for a warmer world: Towards a global governance system to protect climate refugees. Global Environmental Politics, 10(1), 60-88. https://doi.org/10.1162/glep.2010.10.1.60

Burke, B. (2012, July 4). For Pacific Islanders, Hopes and Troubles in Arkansas. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/05/us/for-marshall-islanders-hopes-and-troubles-in-arkansas.html

Campbell, J. R. (2010). Climate Change and Population Movement in Pacific Island Countries. In B. Burson (Ed.), Climate Change and Migration in the South Pacific Region: Policy Perspectives. Institute of Policy Studies: Wellington.29-50.

Central Intelligence Agency. (2016). The world fact book (Page last updated on 2016, November 10) Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ geos/rm.html

De la Croix, D., Docquier, F., & Schiff, M. (2014). Brain drain and economic performance in Small Island Developing States. In The socio-economic impact of migration flows, 123-144. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-04078-3_6

Docquier, F., Lowell, B. L., & Marfouk, A. (2009). A gendered assessment of highly skilled emigration. Population and Development Review, 35(2), 297-321. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1728-4457.2009.00277.x

Docherty, B., & Giannini, T. (2009). Confronting a rising tide: a proposal for a convention on climate change refugees. Harvard Environmental Law Review, 33, 349.

Donner, S. D., & Webber, S. (2014). Obstacles to climate change adaptation decisions: A case study of sea-level rise and coastal protection measures in Kiribati. Sustainability Science, 9(3), 331-345. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-014-0242-z

Economic Policy, Planning, and Statistics Office. Office of the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. (2012). The RMI 2011 Census of Population and Housing: Summary and Highlights Only. Retrieved from https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/migrated/oia/reports/upload/RMI-2011-Census-Summary-Report-on-Population-and-Housing.pdf

Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. (2011). Vulnerability, Risk Reduction, and Adaptation to Climate Change: Marshall Islands.

H.E. Ms. Hilda Heine. (2016, September 22). 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly General Debate. Retrieved from https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/71/71_ MH _en.pdf

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2013). Climate Change 2013: The physical science basis.

International Monetary Fund. (2014). Republic of the Marshall Islands: Staff report for the 2013 Article IV consultation, IMF Country Report No. 14/26. https://www.imf.org/external /pubs /ft/scr/2014/cr1426.pdf

Kälin, W. (2010). Conceptualising climate-induced displacement. In J. MacAdam (Ed.), Climate change and displacement: Multidisciplinary perspectives. Oxford: Hart Publishing.

McNamara, K. E. (2015). Cross-border migration with dignity in Kiribati. Forced Migration Review, 49, 62-62.

McNamara, K. E., & Gibson, C. (2009). 'We do not want to leave our land': Pacific ambassadors at the United Nations resist the category of 'climate refugees'. Geoforum, 40(3), 475-483. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2009.03.006

Ministry of Education Republic of the Marshall Islands. (2014). Education for all national review. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002297/229722E.pdf

Nakayama, M., Yoshioka, N., Fujibayashi, H., & Bruch, C. (2016). Factors affecting livelihood re-establishment of climate change induced transboundary displaced persons. International Journal of Social Science Studies, 4(9), 40-48. https://doi.org/10.11114/ijsss.v4i9.1744

Republic of the Marshall Islands. (2014). National Strategic Plan 2015–2017. Retrieved from https://www.adb .org/sites/default/files/linked-documents/cobp-rmi-2016-2018-ld-04.pdf

United Nations, DESA-Population Division and UNICEF. (2014). Migration Profiles Common Set of Indicators. Retrieved from https://esa.un.org/miggmgprofiles/indicators /indicators.htm

Warner, K., Hamza, M., Oliver-Smith, A., Renaud, F., & Julca, A. (2010). Climate change, environmental degradation and migration. Natural Hazards, 55(3), 689-715. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9419-7

Williams, A. (2008). Turning the tide: recognizing climate change refugees in international law. Law & Policy, 30(4), 502-529. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9930.2008.00290.x

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijssr.v5i1.10594


  • There are currently no refbacks.

International Journal of Social Science Research (Online ISSN: 2327-5510) E-mail: ijssr@macrothink.org

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the 'macrothink.org' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.

Copyright © Macrothink Institute   ISSN 2327-5510