The discourse of climate migration: Unravelling the politics of ASEAN’s environmental policies

  • Anggita Marthin Universitas Gadjah Mada
  • Louis Budiman Universitas Gadjah Mada
Keywords: ASEAN, climate migration, climate geopolitics, climate refugees, environment, environmental communication, Indonesia, Kiribati, Pacific, policy-making


Climate change has inevitably created impacts globally ranging from regulatory changes to affecting social communities. Among these impacts, climate migration becomes the unprecedented and significant one. Millions of migrants are environmentally displaced and the Southeast Asia region is noted as one critical hotspot of the movement. This issue presents challenges for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as there is a need to enlighten and signify the urgency of the problem, knowing that climate-induced migration is still under-discussed within the regional body’s policy-making. Thus, this article aims to analyse why climate migration is under-discussed in ASEAN’s environmental policies and how the ASEAN regional framework lacks preparation to overcome challenges coming from climate change primarily on the issue of climate migration. In doing so, qualitative research method and discourse analysis will be used with data collection obtained from publications, academic journals, articles, and official reports. This article found that environmental communication and climate politics are the main elements that construct the discourse of climate migration within the policy-making of ASEAN. Moreover, a reflection on the discourse of climate migration in other regions such as the Pacific will be delivered.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Agrawal, A. (2005). Environmentality: Technologies of government and the making of subjects (New ecologies for the twenty-first century). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Bedford, R., & Bedford, C. (2010). International migration and climate change: a post-Copenhagen perspective on options for Kiribati and Tuvalu. In B. Burson (Eds.), Climate Change and Migration. South Pacific Perspectives (pp. 89-134). Institute of Policy Studies. doi: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2910.2166.

Burr V. (1995). An introduction to social constructionism. London, UK: Routledge.

Campbell, J. R. (2014). Climate-Change Migration in the Pacific. The Contemporary Pacific, 26(1), 1-28.

Carthew, A., & Linnarz, P. (2012). Environmental Journalism in Asia-Pacific (pp. 7-70). Singapore: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. Retrieved from

Chen, C. (2020). ASEAN needs to act on Mekong River. Bangkok Post. Retrieved from

Cristani, F., Fornalé, E., & Lavenex, S. (2020). Environmental migration governance at the regional level. In T. Krieger, D. Panke, & M. Pregernig (Eds.), Environmental conflicts, migration and governance (pp. 137-156). Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctvvsqc5m.14.

Cronin, T., & Santoso, L. (2010). REDD+ politics in the media: a case study from Indonesia. CIFOR: Working Paper 49. Retrieved 20 October, 2020, from

Dijk, T. (1985). Introduction: Discourse analysis in (mass) communication research. In T. Dijk (Eds.), Discourse and Communication (pp. 1-10). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. doi:

Elder, M., & Miyazawa, I. (2015). Survey of ASEAN’s organizational structure and decision making process for regional environmental cooperation and recommendations for potential external assistance. Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. Retrieved August 1, 2020, from

Farajalla, N. (2020). Climate challenge more terrifying than pandemic. The ASEAN Post. Retrieved from

Fetzek, S., & McGinn, D. (2020). Climate change is a security threat to the Asia-Pacific. The Diplomat. Retrieved from

Geiger, M. (2020). Migration governance at the global level: Intergovernmental organizations and environmental change-induced migration. In T. Krieger, D. Panke, & M. Pregernig (Eds.), Environmental conflicts, migration and governance (pp. 157-176). Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctvvsqc5m.15.

Gunawansa, A. (2015). Dealing with climate migrants: A new challenge for developing nations. In K. L. Koh, I. Kelman, R. Kibugi, & R. L. Eisma-Osorio (Eds.), Adaptation to climate change: Asean and comparative experiences (pp. 311-336). World Scientific Pub Co Pte.

Hartmann, B. (2010). Rethinking climate refugees and climate conflict: Rhetoric, reality and the politics of policy discourse. Journal of International Development, 22(2), 233-246. doi: 10.1002/jid.1676.

Howarth, D. (2000). Discourse. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Jaswal, P., & Jolly, S. (2013). Climate refugees: Challenges and opportunities for international law. Journal of The Indian Law Institute, 55(1), 45-58.

Kraemer, R. A. (2017). The G20 and building global governance for ‘climate refugees’. Centre for International Governance Innovation. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from

Mayer, B. (2015). Climate change, migration, and international law in Southeast Asia. In K. L. Koh, I. Kelman, R. Kibugi, & R. L. Eisma-Osorio (Eds.), Adaptation to climate change: ASEAN and comparative experiences (pp. 337-358). World Scientific Pub Co Pte.

Martinus, M. (2020). ASEAN could bring climate transformation to Southeast Asia. ASEAN Today. Retrieved from

McAdam, J., & Limon, M. (2015). Human rights, climate change, and cross-border displacement: the role of the international human rights community in contributing to effective and just solutions. Universal Rights Group. Retrieved from

Nurlambang, T.(2012). The case of Jakarta city. In Elliot, L. (Eds.), Climate change and migration in southeast Asia: Responding to a new human security challenge (pp. 74-83). Nanyang Avenue, Singapore: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. Retrieved from

O'Neill, K. (2009). The environment and international relations. New York, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Ober, K. (2019). The links between climate change, disasters, migration, and social resilience in Asia: A literature review. Retrieved 4 August, 2020, from

Overland, I. et al. (2017). Impact of climate change on ASEAN international affairs: Risk and opportunity multiplier. Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and Myanmar Institute of International and Strategic Studies.

Padilla, K. (2011). The impacts of climate change on the Mekong delta. Retrieved 14 October, 2020, from

Panizza, F., & Miorelli, R. (2012). Taking discourse seriously: Discursive institutionalism and post-structuralist discourse theory. Political Studies, 61(2), 301-318. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.2012.00967.x.

Petz, D., & Rum, M. (2020). Where to go? Finding durable solutions for disaster-displaced persons in Southeast Asia. In the AHA Centre, ASEAN Risk Monitor and Disaster Management Review (ARMOR) 2nd edition. Jakarta: ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre). Retrieved from

Pham, B.D., & Nash, C. (2017). Climate change in Vietnam: Relations between the government and the media in the period 2000-2013. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 23(1), 96-111.

Prakash, A. (2018). Boiling Point. Finance & Development, (55(3), 22-26. Retrieved from

Randall, A. (2017). The many faces of climate change migration in Asia. The Diplomat. Retrieved from

Robie, D. (2014). ‘Carbon colonialism’: Pacific environmental risk, media credibility and a deliberative perspective. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 20(2), 59-75.

Robie, D. (2017). The insecurity legacy of the Rainbow Warrior affair: A human rights transition from nuclear to climate-change refugees. Pacific Dynamics: Journal of Interdisciplinary Research, 1(1), 34-53.

Robie, D., & Chand, S. (2017). Bearing witness 2016: A Fiji climate change journalism case study. Pacific Journalism Review: Te Koakoa, 23(1), 186-205.

RSF-Reporters Without Borders. (2010). High risk subjects-deforestation and pollution. Paris: Reporters Without Borders. Retrieved from

RSF-Reporters Without Borders. (2020). Red alert for green journalism–10 environmental reporters killed in five years. Retrieved from

Ruppel, O., & Van Wyk, S. (2013). Climate-change-induced movement of persons in Africa: Human rights responses to aspects of human security. In O. Ruppel, C. Roschmann, & K. Ruppel-Schlichting (Eds.), Climate change: International law and global governance: volume II: Policy, diplomacy and governance in a changing environment (pp. 799-826). Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH. Retrieved August 4, 2020, from

Sharp, L., & Richardson, T. (2001). Reflections on Foucauldian discourse analysis in planning and environmental policy research. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 3(3), 193-209. doi: 10.1002/jepp.88.

The World Bank (2018). Groundswell: Preparing for internal climate migration. Retrieved from

Titifanue, J., Kant, R., Finau, G., & Tarai, J. (2017). Climate change advocacy in the Pacific: The role of information and communication technologies. Pacific Journalism Review: Te Koakoa, 23(1), 133-149.

Tuan, L. A., & Chinvanno, S. (2011). Climate change in the Mekong river delta and key concerns on future climate threats. Advances in Global Change Research. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-0934-8_12.

Tze, N. (2020). A green reboot for ASEAN countries. ASEAN Today. Retrieved from

United Nations Development Programme. (1994). Human development report 1994. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

United Nations Human Rights. (2020). Historic UN Human Rights case opens door to climate change asylum claims. Retrieved 20 October, 2020, from

Wahyuni, H.I. (2017). Mainstreaming climate change issues: Challenges for journalism education in Indonesia. Pacific Journalism Review: Te Koakoa, 23(1), 80-95.

Walsh, K. (2017). Kiribati Prepares for 'migration with dignity' to confront the ravages of climate change. Retrieved 20 October, 2020, from

Woonton, N. (2019). Kiribati president challenges all to re-calibrate systems with urgency to enhance climate change actions. Retrieved 14 October, 2020, from

PJR icon
How to Cite
MarthinA., & BudimanL. (2020). The discourse of climate migration: Unravelling the politics of ASEAN’s environmental policies. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 26(2), 35-51.