Wilberforce Institute Researcher Delivers Climate Change Recommendations in Parliament

Saphia Fleury

PhD Student, Falling Through the Net Cluster

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

S.Fleury-2019@hull.ac.uk

Saphia Fleury talks about her research on climate change and the opportunity it gave her to present evidence to parliamentarians last month.

Influencing government policy is a key aim of academia and a strong motivator for many who choose to study for a PhD at the University of Hull. One effective way to achieve change is by submitting evidence to UK parliamentary inquiries and government consultations. (Information about inquiries and consultations in Wales and Scotland is accessible via the websites of the Senedd Cymru and Scottish Parliament). 

My research looks at how people migrate in the context of climate change and natural disasters and the protection gaps that need filling to protect migrants’ human rights. In May, I submitted written evidence to the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Climate Change, which looks at new security threats arising from environmental change. My evidence demonstrated the links between violent struggles and environmental change, from community conflict to wars on an international scale.

As well as having my evidence published on the Committee’s website, I was invited to present it in person in Parliament on 1 November. Contributors are frequently asked to speak as witnesses before formal committee meetings, but on this occasion the format was a little different. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association invited ministers and MPs from across the Commonwealth to join UK parliamentarians to explore emerging security threats arising from climate change, cybersecurity and other phenomena. The session to which I was invited was chaired by Dame Margaret Beckett and heard evidence from Professor Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti on the UK defence apparatus’ approach to climate change, and Dr Stuart Parkinson on the carbon footprint of the military and the threat to climate stability from nuclear weapons.

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, London, UK. Photo courtesy of Marcin Nowak at Unsplash.

I focused my presentation on the four main drivers of climate-induced insecurity: extreme weather events including flash floods and hurricanes; slower, creeping changes such as drought; pandemics and the spread of disease vectors; and human displacement. On the last point, I described how it can be difficult to ascribe human migration to environmental factors alone, since people leave their homes for multiple, complex reasons for which climate change may be a trigger. Nevertheless, changes to the environment play an increasing role in driving people to seek better living conditions elsewhere and the world has not adequately prepared for the human rights crisis that may ensue.

To this end, I made three recommendations to the decision-makers in the room. First, migration should be prevented at source with a robust disaster response, sufficient funding for adaptation, and protecting and fulfilling people’s human rights in situ. Second, accepting that some migration will always occur and can indeed be a positive adaptation measure in itself, people on the move must be protected through safe and orderly migration routes and protection measures, even if they don’t meet the internationally recognised definition of a ‘refugee’. Third, planned resettlement should be facilitated by governments when changes to the environment render it impossible for people to remain in their community or country. In the latter case, affected individuals should be fully consulted in relocation planning and given support to move to new homes and, where necessary, new livelihoods. By implementing these changes through bilateral and multilateral agreements, governments can help to stem the flow of dangerous, irregular migration that harms the migrants themselves and risks triggering political backlash and community conflict.

The high level of engagement with the issue of climate change by those parliamentarians present was clear from the numerous questions posed during the session. Delegates from small island states and developing nations spoke of the urgent need for adaptation support from high-income countries and the inevitability that some of their citizens would have to be relocated, either temporarily or permanently. The delegate from Belize spoke movingly about an evacuation that was currently underway in his country to move people out of the path of an incoming hurricane. The intensity and frequency of hurricanes in the Caribbean Basin, where Belize is situated, is increasing as rising global temperatures warm the sea and air. The perspectives of delegates from Commonwealth countries and British Overseas Territories served to remind all present that climate change is not a theoretical, future problem, but a lived reality for millions of British and Commonwealth citizens globally. There has never been a more urgent time for researchers to make their findings heard by those in power.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, addressing parliamentarians on 1 November 2022. © Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK. Images Copyright http://www.tellingphotography.com

Modern Slavery and Conflict: The Drivers and the Deterrents

Dr Alicia Kidd

Postdoctoral Researcher

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

a.kidd@hull.ac.uk

Dr Alicia Kidd, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Wilberforce Institute, talks about her forthcoming research monograph, Modern Slavery and Conflict: The Drivers and the Deterrents, after securing a contract with Oxford University Press. Her book will run in the Clarendon Studies in Criminology series.

This book developed out of my PhD thesis on the relationship between conflict and modern slavery, which I completed at the Wilberforce Institute in 2019. I had come to the subject in response to my experience as a practitioner in the field where I identified a real gap in research and knowledge regarding the root causes of modern slavery. In bringing an academic focus to practitioner experience, my book injects new material into the field of modern slavery, which is an area in which interest continues to grow amongst academics, practitioners and members of the public alike. This growing interest in modern slavery has also led to large public debates about immigration and asylum which are topics that my book engages with, particularly in relation to the discrepancies between the UK government’s declared intention to lead the way in defeating modern slavery whilst simultaneously imposing a restrictive and hostile environment on those seeking asylum.

By looking beyond just the individuals involved in cases of modern slavery – the victims and the perpetrators – my book will consider the ways in which states facilitate, and sometimes even actively encourage, situations of modern slavery to occur. While there is growing visibility of modern slavery, the portrayal of modern slavery cases inevitably focuses on an unwilling victim, tricked or deceived into exploitation by a criminal perpetrator looking to benefit from the victim’s misfortune. My book will challenge this conception of modern slavery by questioning the common assumptions that a) victims of modern slavery are all entirely distanced from the fate that awaits them and b) that modern slavery is a relationship simply between a victim and a perpetrator.

With a broad definition of conflict as an organising concept, I consider the ways in which conflict can facilitate modern slavery by generating unsafe conditions, disrupting support networks and encouraging displacement. Using first-hand accounts, comparisons are made between those who fled conflict to the UK in relative safety, and those who fled but then experienced modern slavery. My book contextualises these stories in order to understand why some people appear to be more at risk than others when escaping a conflict situation. The book also considers the lives of people after they have fled conflict and arrived in the UK. With the belief that they have left danger behind, arriving in the UK brings hopes of safety. However, by drawing insights from interviews with those who have experienced the UK immigration system, I am able to make observations about how the UK government and its restrictive and hostile immigration policies actually put people at increased risk of modern slavery once they are in the UK.

The strength of my book lies in its unique empirical focus on a comparison between first-hand accounts of people fleeing conflict to safety, and those fleeing conflict and experiencing modern slavery. It offers rare personal insights into the experiences of asylum seekers, refugees and victims of modern slavery and the specific aspects of their journeys that made them vulnerable to exploitation. I hope to have the first edition available in print in 2022.

In this blog, Professor Oldfield talks about the collaboration he was involved with between the Wilberforce Institute and the British Library.

Summary of author’s recent publications

Dr Alicia Kidd

Postdoctoral Researcher

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

alicia.kidd@hull.ac.uk

Today Alicia Kidd, postdoctoral researcher at the Wilberforce Institute, provides a summary of two of her recent chapters on human trafficking.

Both can be found in Julia Muraszkiewicz, Toby Fenton and Hayley Watson, eds, Human Trafficking in Conflict: Context, Causes and the Military (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), at https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783030408374

‘Unavoidable Exploitation? Conflict, Agency and Human Trafficking’

In this first chapter, I look at those who find themselves caught up in human trafficking and conflict. Both are topics that have received significant attention within the Social Sciences. However, there is little literature that looks explicitly at the intersections between the two, or that considers if – and how – conflict might impact a person’s risk of being trafficked. What does exist focuses predominantly on child soldiers and post-conflict zones.

As a result I begin with a summary of the literature surrounding child soldiers. It concentrates on how child soldiers fit the definition of being victims of human trafficking, the ways that child soldiers are recruited, their experiences whilst attached to an armed force or group, and how their experiences continue to affect them long after they leave, or after the conflict ends.

My focus then turns to post-conflict zones and how the long-lasting effects of conflict can continue to put people at risk of trafficking even after the conflict has ended. The existing literature highlights a range of issues leading to human trafficking in post-conflict situations including economic and political restructuring, corruption and poverty, as well as the vulnerabilities faced by refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and children; these topics are all discussed.

Whilst this chapter summarises current knowledge of the links between conflict and human trafficking, I build upon this knowledge by introducing the findings gathered from in-depth face-to-face interviews with individuals who have fled conflict to the UK. These findings provide personal insights into experiences of how conflict can increase a person’s vulnerability to becoming a victim of human trafficking.

Understandings of human trafficking often revert to an assumption that all agency must have been removed from the victim. While some victims of trafficking have no agency in the lead up to their trafficking experience, others have some level of choice in the decisions that lead towards their exploitation. Collating the existing literature and the findings from the interviews, I argue in this chapter that conflict impacts a person’s agency to the extent that it increases a person’s risk of being trafficked. Conflict restricts the choices available to a person, leaving them to choose between limited options which are commonly all imbued with risk. But while their choices may all be undesirable, people do exercise agency within the narrow range of options available to them, and some of these choices will lead to exploitation. As such, I argue that victimhood and agency should not be understood as a binary, but on a spectrum.

‘How Definitions of ‘Child Soldiers’ Exclude Girls from Demobilisation Efforts’ (with Dr Ally Dunhill)

The definition ‘child soldier’ is commonly understood to refer to any person under 18 used in any capacity by armed forces or groups; this includes armed combatants, but also those in ancillary roles such as cooks, ‘wives’ and guards. Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programmes exist to encourage soldiers to give up their weapons, to take them out of service, and to resettle them into civilian society. Such programmes aim to create stability, re-establish security and create the conditions needed for peace. However, while DDR programmes claim to be aimed at everyone involved in armed forces or armed groups, regardless of their role, in practice, they often use much narrower definitions for child soldiers, focusing predominantly on those who carry a weapon; this serves to exclude many roles typically undertaken by girls. 

In this chapter, co-written with Ally Dunhill, we examine the remit and outcomes of DDR programmes to understand why they differentiate between the gendered experiences of child soldiers. Using examples of these programmes, we analyse how children are identified and recruited into such initiatives. We contemplate whether children’s experiences as being part of armed forces (belonging to a state) and armed groups (not under the clear control of a state authority) are adequately considered, and whether the gendered treatment in these programmes is conducive to long term recovery and reintegration into civilian communities. We explore how girls are often overlooked in definitions of child soldiers and highlight the harmful consequences of this. We then assess how the outcomes of the programmes impact the futures of those both included and excluded in the remit of the programmes.

We find that in failing to recognise girls as victims in these situations, DDR programmes are leaving them in precarious situations whereby they have left a trafficking situation only to find themselves in a vulnerable position, facing a lack of support and a high risk of re-exploitation. Building on existing literature on female child soldiers, this chapter highlights the need for further research and concludes with recommendations for generating more effective and inclusive efforts to support female children associated with armed forces or armed groups.

Human Trafficking in Conflict: Context, Causes and the Military (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), at https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783030408374