Ph.D. Dissertation

“A Climate of Exclusion? Environmental Migration, Political Marginalization and Violence.” University of Geneva, Thèse SdS no. 87. (Book project, under contract with Routledge)
Awarded the Prix Universal 2019, University of Geneva (ex aequo)
[Link]

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Despite alarmist claims in the public discourse about the consequences of environmentally-induced migration for security, little empirical research has attempted to evaluate the contention. This dissertation, therefore, sets out to examine the linkage between environmental change, rural-urban migration, and nativist violence. To do so, it presents new data on rural-urban migration for 17 Sub-Saharan African countries. The findings unambiguously indicate that climate change does affect rural-urban migration flows, but only to a limited extent. In turn, these migratory flows may cause a moderate increase in the probability of nativist violence, particularly when the native population is marginalized by the central government. The findings, thus, reject the alarmist predictions. Climate change is unlikely to cause mass migration and, as a consequence, to substantially destabilize states.

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Peer-reviewed article

“Conflict-induced IDPs and the Spread of Conflict.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2018, 62 (4): 691–716. (With Heidrun Bohnet & Simon Hug)
[Link][G-IDP Dataset]

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Recent scholarship has found evidence that refugee flows may inadvertently contribute to the spread of conflict across borders. Little is known, however, about the spatial diffusion of conflict within a state’s borders and what role internal displacement plays in such a dynamic. This question is of relevance because of the particular marginalization of internally displaced persons, which make them at risk of predation and militarization by armed groups. Drawing on a novel global data set on internal displacement, we evaluate this question and find evidence for a similar mechanism leading to conflict spread operating at the domestic level.

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Policy briefs and other contributions

“How Horizontal Inequalities Lead to conflict in Migration Countries.” forthcoming. R4D Programme Policy Brief, no. 3. (With Roch Yao Gnabeli, Jean-Louis Lognon & Sarah Bütikofer)

“Ethnic power relations in Zambia: A Critical Discussion.” 2016. EPR Working Paper Series, No. 5. (With Owen Sichone)
[Link]

Working papers

“Conflict versus disaster-induced migration: Similar or distinct implications for security?” (With Heidrun Bohnet & Simon Hug, under review)

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Recent research has found evidence for a linkage between conflict induced-migration and violence. Yet, displacement is also caused by natural disasters, whose implications for security have until now not received much attention. Drawing on spatial data on flood-induced disasters and forced migration in Africa, we investigate the impact of migration caused by natural disasters on social conflict. We show that disaster-induced migration differs from conflict-induced migration and raises distinct security implications. We also consider if areas simultaneously affected by conflict and disaster-induced migration are particularly at risk of conflict. The results suggest that there is no such amplifying effect.

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“Climate Change and Irregular Migration to the European Union.” (With Idean Salehyan, under review)

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The so-called `European Migrant Crisis’ has been blamed on armed conflict and economic misery, particularly in the Middle East and Sub- Saharan Africa. Some have suggested that this process has been exacerbated by climate change and weather events. In this paper, we evaluate these claims, focusing on the role of droughts in influencing irregular migration flows to Europe. Drawing on temporally disaggregated data on the detection of unauthorized migrants at EU border-crossing points, we empirically examine how the occurrence of weather shocks affects irregular migration. We show that weather events do indeed influence migration. Yet, in contradiction to the findings from recent research, we find no evidence that a drought in a sending country increases irregular migration to the EU. If anything, the incidence of drought seems rather to exert a negative, albeit moderate, impact on the size of irregular migration flows. This effect is observed in particular for sending countries dependent on agriculture for labor employment. Conversely, higher levels of rainfall increase migration, particularly for non-agrarian countries. We interpret this as evidence that international migration is cost-prohibitive, and that adverse weather shocks reinforce existing financial barriers to migration.

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“Rural-Urban Migration, Horizontal Inequalities and Violence.”

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Recent research has investigated whether internal migration might be associated with an increased risk of conflict. The literature has however found only limited evidence for a linkage. In this paper, I attempt to disentangle the mechanisms by focusing specifically on the conditions under which rural-urban migration may be linked to violence. While some researchers have claimed that internal migration may lead to violence, primarily because of competition over resources between migrants and local communities, others have contended it. Although these latter scholars do not deny that migration may locally lead to an increase in the frequency of conflict, they stress that the risk of conflict is compounded by governance failure, autocratic institutions and intergroup inequalities. Drawing on this strand of literature, I argue that conflict is likely to result from rural-urban migration when the indigenous ethnic group is victim of horizontal inequalities or the ethnic balance fragile. Using survey data about the direction and scale of urban migration for 16 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, I assess the linkage between rural-urban migration and violence using large-N analysis. Refining the analysis, I then explore whether this association is conditional on the marginalization of the local ethnic group. Results of the analyses provide evidence for a moderating effect associated with the presence of political inequalities suffered by the indigenous group.

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“Environmental Change and its Effect on Internal Migration.”

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Environmental change is projected to increase dramatically in the coming years. As a consequence, internal migration is expected to rise as well, as livelihoods will be adversely affected by droughts and changing precipitation patterns. This is in particular held to be true for developing countries where the lack of essential infrastructure is often compounded by governance failure. While previous research has found some evidence for a linkage between environmental change and internal migration, limited data on internal migration in developing countries has hampered systematic empirical research. Drawing on migration data drawn from large-scale public health surveys, I provide one of the first comparative assessments of the effects of environmental change on rural-urban migration for a sample of Sub- Saharan countries. The results show that environmental change does indeed affect the direction and level of rural-urban migration. Refining the analysis, I then attempt to disentangle the mechanisms linking environmental change to migration, focusing in particular on how political marginalization along ethnic lines and reliance on rainfed agriculture moderates this relation.

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“Perceptions of Economic and Political Inequalities among Young People in Africa.” (With Simon Hug)

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Previous research has argued that a demographically large youth bulge influences the risk of violence, and in particular civil wars. Yet, results from empirical research have remained ambiguous. Specifically, the current debate focuses on whether the influence of a large youth bulge has a different effect on ethnic and non-ethnic civil wars. Based on recent empirical findings suggesting that ethnic civil wars result from perceived and objective inequalities across ethnic groups rather than as a function of the demographic structure of a given population, the present chapter examines whether the perceptions of inequalities between ethnic groups differs among youths in African countries. To do so, we rely on the Afro- barometers surveys. The results of the empirical investigations indicate that youths, defined as individuals in the 18–25 age range, do not generally hold systematically worse evaluation of the economic or political status of their ethnic group than the rest of the population. We interpret this findings as a potential explanation for why youth bulge do not appear to be associated with ethnic conflict.

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“Electoral Information and Night Lights in Authoritarian Regimes.” (With Aurélien Evequoz)

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Political elites are generally assumed to act strategically when redistributing public goods. In this paper, we investigate specifically how electoral in- formation affects nighttime lights changes in authoritarian regimes. Extant research emphasizes that authoritarian elites use elections to acquire information on the location of supporters and opponents. However, little is known on how information about electoral support impacts elites’ behavior toward their constituents, and ultimately the distribution of public goods. To fill this gap, we approach the provision of electricity as a club good that elites may use to reward supporters and punish unaligned constituencies. We expect authoritarian regimes to reward constituencies where support is strong, while constituencies displaying weaker support should experience a reduction in access to electricity. Using original data on nighttime lights imagery and district electoral results, our findings show that political considerations affect the timing and geographic location of electricity provision in authoritarian states.

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