The Reason Land Matters: Relocation as Adaptation to Climate Change in Fiji Islands

  • Dalila GharbaouiEmail author
  • Julia Blocher
Part of the Global Migration Issues book series (IOMS, volume 6)


Retreating from coastal areas in response to changing environmental conditions has long been a part of Pacific Island communities’ adaptive strategies, culture and practices. However, the adverse effects of climate change are likely to increasingly incite islanders to migrate to cope with threats to their livelihoods. Relocation processes are particularly complex, as a majority of land is under customary tenure and land is a common cause of conflict. Yet customary land tenure and use are seldom mooted in discussions on adaptation strategies in the Pacific.

This chapter explores the extent to which customary land issues are key to the sustainability of population movements in the Pacific region, exemplified by the case of Fiji. This is done through an analysis of scholarly debates around planned relocation and land rights, exploring recent and past examples of environmentally-induced community relocations in Fiji. Two primary, and contrasting, views on relocation strategies are revealed: one argues for the primacy of social development, community well-being and the preservation of collective land rights and the other puts forward a neoliberal view on economic growth, individual rights and logistical aspects of the relocation process. We argue an intermediate position may be applied that underlines the importance of consultation, cooperation and negotiation with customary leaders, relocatees and hosting communities at an early stage. A deep exploration of both ancestral and recent community relocations and customary land tenure is necessary to ensure relocations are sustainable and maintain the link between Islanders and their land, which has been an extension of their identity for millennia.


Land tenure Climate change Resettlement Migration Human rights 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hugo Observatory for Environmental MigrationUniversity of LiègeLiègeBelgium
  2. 2.Macmillan Brown Center for Pacific StudiesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  3. 3.United Nations UniversityNew YorkUSA

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