Socio-economy & New Tech


AXA Projects


Forced migration, environmental risks and conflicts

Refugees are rightly viewed as victims of persecution and war, however, recent research has suggested that they may also take an active role in conflict dynamics. Yet the mechanisms that link refugees and conflict remain poorly understood. Moreover, a number of policy-makers and activists have warned lately that the flow of displaced persons may rise significantly over the course of the next decades because of climate change. Thus possibly increasing the risk of conflict as competition for ever declining resources is heightened.
Despite the wide recognition of the importance of both localization of refugee settlements and the environment in the relationship between forced migration and conflict diffusion, little has been undertaken to assess these claims. This very question is raised by Pr. Hug and his team. They emphasize that although much research has been carried out on conflict-induced migration and conflict diffusion, few studies have investigated the link between the two. In addition, the literature has been limited to national level studies and focused only on conflict-induced migration. Their project, consequently, takes a disaggregated approach assessing not only the impact of refugees’ spatial localization on the risk of conflict, but also analyzing whether environmentally-induced migration carry similar risks of conflict diffusion as conflict-induced migration.
Thus, with the help of global and European research networks, and building on data by UNHCR and other actors, Pr. Hug and his team seek to fill the gap by developing spatial datasets on displaced persons – related both to conflict and environmentally-induced displacements - in order to uncover possible linkages.
Thanks to this innovative research and its strong interdisciplinary aspect combining geography with political science, conflict with environmental risks research, Pr. Hug and his team strive to deliver an accurate assessment of the mechanisms, by which forced migration may affect the propensity of violent conflict, thus contributing not only to risk identification, but also to risk prevention for international actors in decision-making and crisis-management.

Investigating the link between forced migration and conflict

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University of Geneva





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