Date of Graduation

Spring 5-21-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Olivier Bercault

Second Advisor

Brian Dowd-Uribe


An increase in human mobility as a consequence of climate change induced slow-onset environmental degradation and sudden-onset natural disasters is expected to be a defining feature of the 21st century. Inexorably shifting the global migratory landscape, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) approximates that roughly 250 million people will be forcefully displaced due to adverse climate impacts by 2050. While there is no international consensus on appropriately categorizing such people, this thesis refers to them as "environmentally-displaced persons" (EDPs). Since EDPs do not qualify for "refugee" status, they are not afforded access to assistance under the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol; leading to what is known as the "protection-gap". By employing Oceania as the case-study, through a critical refugee studies framework, this thesis aims to contribute to the worst-case scenario where EDPs will need to be resettled in a third country to secure safety from uninhabitable climate conditions. Specifically, this research seeks to uncover innovative approaches towards motivating states to resettle EDPs and asks, what "rationale" most compelled or deterred positive traditional refugee resettlement policies in Australia and New Zealand, and how can this model be applied in the case of EDPs from the Pacific Islands? Thematic and content analysis was deployed through a non-experimental comparative case-study design built on secondary qualitative data. The findings reveal the predominance of the national security rationale and legal rationale in Australia and New Zealand's refugee policymaking, respectively. While limited to islands or coastline countries, these results under a “Pacific Peoples’ Solution” framework can help stakeholders identify potential avenues for "soft" approaches towards EDP resettlement in the absence of binding obligations.