Environmental Disasters and Vulnerability to Human Trafficking and Exploitation: Initial Findings of a Pilot Research Study in Mongolia

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Kiril SHARAPOV, University of Bedfordshire, United Kingdom
The paper presents initial findings of a pilot research project, which interrogates a relationship between vulnerability to human trafficking and labour exploitation, on the one hand, and environmental disasters, on the other hand, by focusing on the impact of land degradation and desertification in Mongolia.

Despite the accumulating evidence of the links between environmental change and socio-economic vulnerability, there has been little reference so far to natural disasters in the literature on climate change and displacements, and even less discussion on the vulnerability of people affected by such disasters to coercion. The framing context for this study is the increasing socio-economic vulnerability of communities linked to the changing global climate and patterned by systems of social stratification on the one hand, and the promise of neoliberal economic growth, which remains a key factor in climate change, to deliver the vision of equity and social justice, on the other.

The impact of climate change on the movement of people within and across borders, and the social and economic impact of such forced displacements have been receiving an increasing attention from both scholars and policymakers. However, little scholarly research exists to systematically explore these issues with some of the key scholarly contributions and policy documents making distinctions between ‘people devastated by conflict or natural disasters’ and ‘victims of trafficking’ ignoring the often-occurring overlap between the two categories.

The paper will present initial findings based on a series of interviews conducted with scholars, policy-makers and representatives of the most affected communities in Mongolia. It will explore which factors increase the vulnerability of people in areas affected by environmental disasters to human trafficking. It will discuss what could be done to improve community and individual resilience to climate disasters and reduce the vulnerability of communities and individuals to violence, coercion and human trafficking.