Disasters, climate change and displacement


The module focuses upon human displacement, migration and (im)mobility in the context of disasters, climate change and environmental degradation.

The module seeks to impart a solid critical understanding of the concepts and conceptualisations of different forms of human (im)mobility in such contexts, and critical appraisal and application of relevant law/policy frameworks including: international refugee and human rights law; national and international law and policy on migration and internal displacement, and; recent global initiatives to address human displacement and migration.

Topics covered

  • Disasters are not natural
  • Human mobility and immobility
  • The limits and potential of refugee and human rights law
  • Migration frameworks to the rescue?
  • Protection at home: mitigating cross-border displacement
  • Global initiatives, policy frameworks and new frontiers.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will be expected to be able to:

  • Recognise and appraise concepts and conceptualisations of natural hazards, disasters, climate change and environmental degradation, and how they impact on people’s circumstances and living conditions
  • Describe and evaluate the main legal/policy frameworks relating to displacement and (im)mobility in the context of disasters, climate change and environmental degradation
  • Use these concepts, laws and policy frameworks to assess a range of factual case studies based on complex contemporary scenarios
  • Develop sound legal and policy arguments, evaluating these concepts, challenges and law/policy frameworks, reflecting on them and modifying them as appropriate based on the constructive feedback of your tutor and peers.


This elective module is assessed via a 4,000-word research essay, which comprises 70% of the overall grade, and three online assessments (E-tivities), which make up 30% of the overall grade.

Sanjula Weerasinghe module tutor for SAS

Sanjula Weerasinghe - Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies

Sanjula is an Australian lawyer and independent consultant based in Geneva. She has undertaken senior, specialist consulting roles with UNHCR and IOM focused on the intersection of international law, displacement, and migration, particularly in the context of disaster, climate change, and conflict.

She has worked in the secretariat of the State-led Migrants in Countries in Crisis Initiative and with NGOs, think tanks and research institutions in Thailand, Hong Kong, the United States, and Switzerland.

Sanjula is a Centre Affiliate at the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales, a Non-Resident Fellow at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, and an Advisory Committee member of the Platform on Disaster Displacement. Sanjula received her LL.B (Hons) from Monash University and her LL.M. (Dist) from Georgetown University.

Member institution: School of Advanced Study
Lorenzo Guadagno is a module tutor for SAS

Lorenzo Guadagno - Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies

Lorenzo Guadagno works on migration and disasters at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), managing the capacity building programme on “Migrants in Countries in Crisis” and supporting IOM’s Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division. He has worked and published on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, human mobility and ecosystem conservation with international and non-governmental organisations. He holds a MD in Law from the “Federico II” University (Naples, Italy) and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Sannio (Benevento, Italy).

Member institution: School of Advanced Study
Ana Mosneaga module tutor SAS

Ana Mosneaga - Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies

Ana is a migration and displacement specialist currently working as Lecturer of international relations at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Previously she served as an expert and coordinator for research, policy development and advocacy programmes in international organisations, NGOs, academia and private sector. She also obtained first-hand insight into the making of international agreements, most recently by being actively involved in discussions on the Global Compact on Refugees.

Ana researches how diverse population movements are to be managed, and the implications that relevant policy and practice carry for the lives of migrants and refugees. She has analysed a wide variety of migration phenomena, which were often under-researched at that time: ranging from internal displacement after the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, to the management of international students’ status transition to foreign workers in the EU. Her current research focuses on disaster displacement and how it features in international policy processes.

Member institution: School of Advanced Study