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Human Costs

Vol. 5 No. 1 | Summer 2018
Human Trafficking...

Human Trafficking and Climate Change

Understanding the Disastrous Relationship

Alice C. Hill

        Human trafficking is a horrendous crime: it degrades human security and undermines the rights of people around the globe. Although the exact number of victims worldwide remains elusive, the extent of human trafficking stands to increase in coming years for several reasons, including the accelerating rate of climate change. A warming world will almost certainly bring more disasters that result in greater displacement of people from their homes and livelihoods. This, in turn, puts them at greater risk of trafficking. Human trafficking is a highly lucrative crime, with few perpetrators successfully prosecuted and transnational criminal and terrorist groups repeatedly using it as a source of revenue. These factors, in combination with worsening climate change impacts will, in all likelihood, yield ever more human trafficking victims.

At its core, human trafficking involves forcing another against his or her will to work, perform sex acts, or succumb to debt bondage. Despite its name, the crime does not necessarily involve movement: the key element is coercion. Over 170 nations have signaled their opposition to human trafficking by joining the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and virtually all countries have registered official opposition to trafficking in humans. Despite these pronouncements, human trafficking occurs with staggering frequency. While precise estimates of the number of persons trafficked are difficult to obtain, the U.S. Department of State speculated in its 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report that there may be “tens of millions” of victims worldwide.[1] Other international organizations “estimate that about 25 million people are victims” of human trafficking in the world.[2] In all likelihood, those numbers will grow due in part to the increasing effects of climate change...


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[1] U.S. Department of State, 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, 2017).
[2] Daniel R. Coats, Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community (Washington, DC: Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2018), 14.

Alice C. Hill  

Alice C. Hill is a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution where her work focuses on building resilience to destabilizing catastrophic events, including the impacts of climate change. Prior to joining Hoover, she served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Resilience Policy for the National Security Council under President Obama. While at the White House, Hill led the development of national policy regarding national security and climate change, incorporation of climate resilience considerations into international development, building national capabilities for long-term drought resilience, and establishment of national risk management standards for three of the most damaging natural hazards. Hill previously served as Senior Counselor to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and as an ex officio member of the Federal Advisory Committee for the National Climate Assessment.


Acknowledgment: I acknowledge and am grateful for Bill Kakenmaster’s help in preparing this article.



Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World

by Paul Collier & Alexader Betts

A Book Review by Sabrineh Ardalan

        With over 65 million people forcibly displaced around the world, policymakers, academics, and advocates alike are searching for creative approaches to addressing the challenges presented.[1] Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World reflects an effort by two preeminent scholars, Alexander Betts, Leopold W. Muller Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs and Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, and Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Oxford University, to identify the main drivers of and responses to forced migration.

Following the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) engaged in a series of discus- sions with UN member states, experts, advocacy groups, refugees, and other stakeholders, including from the private sector and financial world, to develop the “zero draft” of the global compact on refugees.[2] Released in January 2018, the draft contains a “programme of action” with prescriptions for a comprehensive refugee response framework aimed at meeting the needs of refugee communities through access to education and work, among other services. The draft focuses on investment in local solutions to integrate refugees and to provide refugees with opportunities to engage productively with the communities that host them.

In their book, Refuge, Betts and Collier present several ideas for rethinking assistance to refugees echoed in the current draft of the compact. Self-reliance and autonomy, for example, are key themes in both Refuge and the zero draft. They note, in particular, the need for investment in employment opportunities and training for refugees with the dual purpose of “restor[ing] normality” and “incubating post-conflict recovery.” The draft compact likewise underscores how essential skill development is to preparing refugees for long-term, durable solutions such as voluntary repatriation when circumstances allow for it...

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[1] Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2016, UNHCR, June 19, 2017
[2] See UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/71/1, September 19, 2016 (New York Declaration); Network for Refugee Voices, Press Release, October 26, 2017, text of “NRV Intervention – Iyad Kallas,” at the First Thematic Session on Global Compact on Refugees – Plenary; The Global Compact on Refugees ‘Zero Draft,’ UNHCR, January 31, 2018; UNHCR, “Towards a Global Compact on Refugees,” <> (accessed May 5, 2018)


Sabrineh Ardalan

Sabrineh Ardalan is assistant director at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program and assistant clinical professor at Harvard Law School. At the clinic, Ardalan supervises and trains law students working on applications for asylum and other humanitarian protections, as well as appellate litigation and policy advocacy. She teaches courses on immigration and refugee law and advocacy, international labor migration, and on trauma, refugees,

and asylum law. Her work has been published widely, including in the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, the Michigan Journal of Law Reform, the New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, and Westlaw’s Immigration Briefings. She holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. in history and international studies from Yale College.

Climate Change...

Climate Change and the Health of Nations:

Famines, Fevers, and the Fate of Populations

by Anthony McMichael

A Book Review by Easwaran Narassimhan

        Projecting the precise outcomes of climate change on the health and economic well-being of humans is integral to conceiving a coherent climate policy, yet forecasts are often associated with uncertainty. Given the complex nature of the problem: as Anthony McMichael points out in his book – Climate Change and the Health of Nations – famines, fevers, and the fate of populations “the Earth system’s behavior is less amenable to exact description and measurement, and behavior under future unfamiliar conditions cannot be confidently estimated.” As countries work hard to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement, this unpredictability has become a reason for a dead- lock among nations who are finding it challenging to negotiate the finer, disputable aspects of the Agreement. The issue of “loss and damage” compensation to the more vulnerable regions of the world in particular, has become a bone of contention. It is in this context that McMichael’s book is unique. Instead of being focused on the clichéd discussions surrounding the science and politics of climate change, it provides an account of how humans have evolved, survived, and struggled in an ever changing global climate. In doing so, he views climate change through a historical lens.


The book begins by exploring how the ever-so-restless global climate has played a pivotal role in shaping many historical events and the fate of various life forms on the planet. McMichael explains how extreme climate conditions have been responsible for most of the natural extinctions and catastrophic transitions since the Cambrian explosion of new life forms around 540 million years ago. In separate chapters, he throws light on how changing climate conditions have coincided with the rise and fall of human civilizations: from the European Bronze Age to the fall of Rome, the Mayans, and the Anasazi to the little Ice-Age that gripped Europe and China. Throughout the book, McMichael emphasizes how temperature anomalies have proven to be a bane for food supply, human health, and economic well-be- ing, and how they have resulted in the evolution of various infectious agents and vectors. The intriguing nature of changing temperature becomes evident as one is exposed to the many natural extinctions that have been followed by either a rapid cooling or a rapid warming period. McMichael also attempts to associate such naturally occurring warming and cooling with the evolution of some human species and de-evolution of others over time. He quotes John Hooker in saying that “every modification of climate, every disturbance of soil, every interference with the existing vegetation of an area, favors some species at the expense of others.”...

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Easwaran Narassimhan

Easwaran Narassimhan is a PhD candidate and a doctoral research fellow at the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Prior to enrolling in the doctoral program, Easwaran received a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School, specializing in environmental policy and development economics. As a doctoral student, Easwaran focuses on green industrial policy and innovation, and trying to understand the role of government in developing countries transitioning to a low carbon future. In addition to his dissertation, Easwaran is working on projects comparing the effectiveness of carbon pricing regimes, and measuring the environmental efficacy of Chinese overseas energy investments. In addition to academic work, Easwaran has participated in a variety of student activities pertaining to energy and environment at Fletcher. Easwaran served as the Energy Events Coordinator for the Fletcher Energy and Environment Club (FLEEC) in 2014-2015. Easwaran also served as the Content Co-director for the 2015 Tufts Energy Conference. Prior to Fletcher, Easwaran received a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University in December 2008 and worked at Intel Corporation designing power generation systems for Intel microprocessors.

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