Social and cultural protection for environmentally displaced populations: Banaban minority rights in Fiji

Gil Marvel P. Tabucanon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of global warming are now being felt in various parts of the world. Few aspects of social and cultural life are likely to remain unaffected. The Pacific is widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable regions. Among the impacts of longterm environmental changes will be community migration and displacement. While most displacements are projected to be internal and temporary, for low lying atoll states in the Pacific permanent international relocation may be the only option. This article examines social and cultural rights of environmental migrants, and focuses on the Banaban resettlement in Fiji as a case study on minority rights protection of an environmentally- displaced population. While the Banaban displacement was not due to climate change but to long-term impacts of phosphate extraction on Banaba Island, the Banaban experience provides important lessons on the role of minority rights in the protection of culture and identity of environme ntallydisplaced communities. That the Banabans retained their collective identity and under existing Fijian law are allowed to maintain their indigenous system of self-government as well as use their native language are proofs of the resettlement's success. However, Banaban minority protection is no longer as secure as it once seemed to be. Recent developments in Fiji threaten to veer away from minority rights protection and ethnic diversity. Ethnic or cultural minorities, including those displaced by environmental triggers, have distinct customs, traditions and histories requiring legal protection as well as physical and social space to thrive. The protection of cultural diversity promoting a balance of cultural identity retention and acculturation as a by-product of a healthy interaction with the host society constitute a component of successful long-term resettlement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-47
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal on Minority and Group Rights
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Banaban resettlement
  • environmental migration
  • minority rights


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