Climate-related displacement and options for resettlement in Solomon Islands

Rebecca Monson, Joseph Foukona

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Solomon Islands is a scattered archipelago comprising hundreds of mountainous islands and low-lying coral atolls in the south-west Pacific. The six largest islands are Choiseul, New Georgia, Santa Isabel, Guadalcanal, Malaita and San Cristobal (Makira). Most of these islands have central mountain ranges that rise rapidly from the ocean, and with the exception of the plains on northeast Guadalcanal, there is little coastal plain. Contemporary settlements are concentrated in the coastal areas, which are bordered by mangroves, coral-reef lagoons, or open oceans. The country includes many inhabited coral atolls, including the low-lying Ontong Java (or Lord Howe) and Sikaiana, and the raised atolls of Rennell and Bellona; as well as low-lying artificial islands built in relatively shallow lagoons off mainland Malaita. Many communities are experiencing what they believe to be the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels. In some places, this has already induced the relocation of entire communities from small islands and atolls to the coastal areas of larger islands nearby. Other communities are currently discussing the prospect of relocating to higher ground. Although the Pacific Island countries are often overlooked in global debatesabout customary land tenure, discussions among Solomon Islanders about customary land tenure provide insight into a range of conceptual and normative issues that are of considerable interest to scholars concerned with displacement, resettlement, customary land tenure and social differentiation in other postcolonial contexts. While donors and non-government organizations active in Solomon Islands have devoted attention to the impact of climate change on rural livelihoods, far less attention has been devoted to the vexing issue of how customary land tenure systems might provide scope for adaptation to the effects of climate change. Customary tenure systems in Solomon Islands provide means for incorporating migrants into the land and the existing groups that occupy it, but migration of entire groups of people has also long been a source of conflict in the country. This chapter draws on preliminary research undertaken by the authors and a larger team of Australian and Solomon Islander researchers, as part of a larger ongoing project on climate change and localized mechanisms for resettlement in Solomon Islands. The preliminary research has focused on a number ofsites in which people have already relocated, or are contemplating relocation, as a result of oceanic inundation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationLand Solutions for Climate Displacement
    Editors Scott Leckie
    Place of PublicationLondon, UK
    ISBN (Print)9780415703734
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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