Research page
Global Governance Centre

From the Bottom Up: Incorporating Vulnerable Groups in the Norm Creation Process Concerning Sea Level Rise and Climate-Induced Displacement in Oceania

This research explores the processes by which international law may reorient the norm-creation process in order to better respond and react to global issues by using tailored and  appropriate normative solutions produced with the participation of affected groups. It does so on the bedrock premise that a system capable of incorporating affected groups in the norm-creation process will be a system more capable of addressing global challenges and posits that a failure to do so runs the risk that our responses are, at best, non-responsive and, at worst, maladaptive in addressing the actual concerns and needs of those groups.

This research bases itself on a case study: focusing on sea level rise and climate-induced displacement in Oceania. Thus, the focal point for this research is the participation of ‘climate vulnerable groups’, in the ‘norm-creation process’ currently occurring in association with sea level rise and climate-induced displacement in Oceania. The next sections introduce this trifecta; the phenomenon of sea-level rise and climate-induced displacement in Oceania, climate-vulnerable groups and their ‘participatory status’, and the ‘norm creation process’.

The research utilises doctrinal legal research to establish the normative basis for the participation of affected groups in the norm-creation process, establishing that those groups have an interest, and in many cases a right, to participation. The proposed research then takes a socio-legal approach combined with a qualitative social science methodology to analyse the case study of sea level rise and climate-induced displacement in Oceania, modelling the extant participatory mechanisms within that system and exploring their shortcomings. The results are analysed using an applied socio-legal methodology. The research produces a model of bottom-up norm creation and participation applicable both to the selected case study and beyond to a wide issue base, ensuring the broad applicability and impact of the research. The applied socio-legal approach allows for the proposition of a model that acknowledges that vulnerable populations often possess situated knowledge that cannot be underestimated as an important, informative, and instructional element of an effective response, and imagines a legal system capable of benefiting from that input.


Timeline: September 2023 - August 2026.


Funding organisation:

snf logo