The legal position of inhabited islands submerging due to sea level rise

Anemoon Soete
Zinkende eilandenNooit of te nimmer hield een land zo lang de verbeelding van elk kind en volwassene in greep als het land van neptunusbeelden, gezonken schatten en verwaterde glorie. Het is een land dat Plato omschreef als Atlantis. Vandaag dienen er zich kandidaten aan om het vervolgverhaal van Atlantis de wereld in te sturen. De hedendaagse verhalen hebben echter een minder sprookjesachtige bijklank.

The legal position of inhabited islands submerging due to sea level rise

Zinkende eilanden

Nooit of te nimmer hield een land zo lang de verbeelding van elk kind en volwassene in greep als het land van neptunusbeelden, gezonken schatten en verwaterde glorie. Het is een land dat Plato omschreef als Atlantis. Vandaag dienen er zich kandidaten aan om het vervolgverhaal van Atlantis de wereld in te sturen. De hedendaagse verhalen hebben echter een minder sprookjesachtige bijklank. Ze ontsproten dan ook niet aan een fantasierijke schrijversgeest, maar aan het fenomeen van klimaatsverandering.

Titanic statenKlimaatsverandering wordt gelinkt aan voedselschaarste, woestijnvorming, veiligheidsproblemen, verlies van culturele en nationale identiteit, en ook aan een sterk stijgend zeeniveau. Dat laatste wordt zelfs tot een van de meest vaststaande en verregaande gevolgen van klimaatsverandering gerekend volgens het Intergouvernementele Panel inzake Klimaatsverandering van de Verenigde Naties. De gevolgen van klimaatsverandering doen zich globaal voor, maar de ene bevolking en bijhorende staat zal al harder en anders getroffen worden dan de andere. Delen van ons hoogsteigen plat pays of vlakke land komen wel al eens bovendrijven in discussies over een stijgend zeeniveau. Voor andere staten stopt het echter niet bij de mogelijkheid van gedeeltelijke overstromingen. Voor laaggelegen eilandstaten zoals de Maldiven en Tonga waarvan niet enkel een deel, maar nagenoeg de volledige landen slechts één meter boven het zeeniveau reiken, staat het water pas echt aan de lippen.

Als we het wonderlijke Atlantis even buiten beschouwing laten, is het overspoelen van volledige eilandstaten, waardoor deze elk lapje bewoonbaar territorium verliezen, een ongekend fenomeen. Het bezitten van territorium, een permanente bevolking, een overheid en de mogelijkheid om relaties aan te gaan met andere staten zijn volgens de criteria van de Montevideo Conventie van 1933 echter cruciaal om een staat te zijn. Staten bezitten nog steeds de meeste privileges van alle internationale rechtspersonen, waaronder het recht zich economisch belangrijke maritieme zones toe te eigenen. Omwille van die privileges is het belangrijk te weten of een eilandstaat nog een staat kan worden genoemd wanneer deze elk lapje droog land kwijtspeelt aan de omringende zeeën en oceanen.

Het statenclubje voorbijgestreefdStatenpraktijk leert ons echter dat de Montevideo criteria vele uitzonderingen kennen en meer geschikt zijn voor het ontstaan en niet voor het voortbestaan van staten zoals dat voor de eilandstaten aan de orde is. Om tot de continuïteit van staten te beslissen, wordt het hoog tijd het pakket instrumenten van het internationale recht uit te breiden, zoals dat vaak al in de praktijk gebeurt en waarbij rigide theorie achterwege wordt gelaten. Een dergelijke vervanging van de Montevideo criteria kan worden aangetroffen in de theorie van erkenning. In een notendop biedt deze theorie de onbetwiste, bestaande staten de mogelijkheid een eilandstaat te blijven erkennen als staat, zelfs al heeft die geen bewoonbaar territorium meer. Deze oplossing is echter eentje die niet geschikt zal blijken voor alle gevallen, aangezien deze ertoe kan leiden dat de term staat een hol begrip wordt, zonder werkelijke invloedssfeer. Die uitkomst moet uiteraard ten allen tijde vermeden worden. 

Wanneer het bezitten van bewoonbaar territorium geen optie meer is en de bevolking migreert, kan het label staat na een eventuele transitieperiode geen volwaardige optie meer zijn voor de eilandstaten. Het zou passender zijn deze wel nog te erkennen als internationale rechtspersonen die een beperkter gezag uitoefenen in vergelijking met een staat. Via deze beperkte macht kunnen zij zoals een regering in ballingschap dan nog steeds hulp bieden aan hun over verschillende landen verspreide bevolking. Alzo wordt de huidige bestaande mogelijkheid van ‘staat of geen staat’ verruimd en aangepast aan hedendaagse noden. Een geëvolueerde wereld heeft baat bij geëvolueerde concepten. Zo kunnen in de toekomst concepten zoals ex-staten, halve staten of kwart staten, met elk hun eigen specifieke kenmerken, verwelkomd worden in het vocabularium van het internationaal publiekrecht.

ZandzakjesEr moet opgemerkt worden dat het niet voor alle eilanden tot zinken hoeft te komen wanneer die eilandstaten er toch in slagen land te behouden. Redding kan gevonden worden in het bouwen van artificiële eilanden, opkopen van land elders of samensmelten met derde staten. Vaak behoren de getroffen eilandstaten echter tot de groep van minst ontwikkelde staten en zullen er geen middelen voorhanden zijn om de nodige maatregelen tijdig te kunnen nemen. Hulp in natura en monetaire hulp van andere landen zijn aan de orde, en in het bijzonder van deze die de bakermat vormden voor het bespoedigen van klimaatsverandering en het stijgende zeeniveau. Zandzakjes alleen zullen het tij niet doen keren. Verzekeringsmechanismes en eeuwigdurende rechtszaken lijken de toren problemen enkel nog hoger te maken. De bestaande fondsen moeten uitgebreid worden en de bedreigde eilandstaten doen er goed aan nu reeds zoveel mogelijk multilaterale overeenkomsten te sluiten om zich te verzekeren van hun plaats in de internationale gemeenschap, het behoud van hun maritieme zones, de continuïteit van hun culturele identiteit en een gestage migratie van hun bevolking.

 

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Humphreys, S. (ed.), Human Rights and Climate Change, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010, 348

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Jackson, R., Sovereignty: The Evolution of an Idea, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2007, 200

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Kahler, M. and Walter, B. F. (eds.), Territoriality and conflict in an era of globalization, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006, 340.

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Kogen, M. G., “Territory, Abandonment”, in The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, November 2008, online edition

Kooijmans, P. H. and Brus, M., Internationaal publiekrecht in vogelvlucht, Deventer, Kluwer, 2008, 403

Kosolapova, E., Interstate liability for climate change-related damage, Den Haag, Eleven Publishers, 2013, 228

Kreijen, G., State Failure, Sovereignty and Effectiveness, Leiden, Martinus Nijhoff, 2004, 386

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Lalonde, S., Determining boundaries in a conflicted world: the role of uti possidetis, Montréal, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002, 347

Lauterpacht, H., Recognition in international law, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1947,  442

Leary, D. and Pisupati, B. (eds.), The future of international environmental law, Tokyo, United Nations University Press, 335

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McAdam, J., Climate Change and Displacement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Oxford, Hart, 2010, 285

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Meiertöns, H., The Doctrines of US Security Policy: An Evaluation under International Law, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010, 330

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Nordquist, M. H.,  Moore, J. N.,  Soons, A. H. A. and  Kim, H. (eds.), The Law of the Sea Convention : US accession and globalization, Leiden, Martinus Nijhoff, 575

Nunn, P. D., Developments in Earth and Environmental Sciences: volume 6 - Climate, Environment, and Society in the Pacific during the Last Millennium, Amsterdam, Elsevier, 2007, 316

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Okafor, O.C., Re-Defining Legitimate Statehood: International Law and State Fragmentation in Africa, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 2000, 232

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Oude Elferink, A. G. (ed.), Stability and Change in the Law of the Sea: The Role of the LOS Convention, Leiden, Martinus Nijhoff, 2005, 250

Oude Elferink, A.G., “Artificial Islands, Installations and Structures” in The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, July 2007, online edition

Parker, A. and Grossman, Z. (eds.), Asserting Native Resilience: Pacific rim indigenous nations face the climate crisis, Corvalis, Oregon University Press, 2012, 240

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Raič, D. Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination, The Hague, Kluwer Law International, 2002, 495

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Zimmerman, A., “Continuity of States” in The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, August 2006, online edition.

 

Journal articles

Barnett, J. and Neil, A. W., “Climate Dangers and Atoll Countries”, Climatic change 61 (2003), 321-337.

Bates, D. C., “Environmental Refugees? Classifying Human Migration Caused by Climate Change”, Population and Environment 23(5), 465-477

Berlin, A. H., “Recognition as sanction: using international recognition of new states to deter, punish, and contain bad actors”, J. Int'l L. 31(2) (2009), 531-591

Brubaker, R., “The ‘diaspora’ diaspora”, Ethic and Racial Studies 28(1) (2005), 1-19

Caron, D. D., “When Law makes Climate Change Worse: Rethinking the Law of Baselines in Light of Rising Sea Level”, Ecology L.Q. 17 (1990), 621-653.

Connell, J., “Losing ground? Tuvalu, the greenhouse effect and the garbage can”, Asia Pacific Viewpoint 44(2) (2003), 98-107

Cowen, R. C., “Are Men Changing the Earth's Weather?”, The Christian Science Monitor, 4 December 1957, 1-13

Cox, N., “The Acquisition of Sovereignty by Quasi-States: The case of the Order of Malta”, Mountbatten Journal of Legal Studies 6 (2002), 26-47

Crawford, J., “The Creation of the State of Palestine: Too Much Too Soon?”, EJIL 1(1990), 307-313

Deruytter, T., “Klimaatvluchtelingen: doelloos op zoek naar erkenning. Onderzoek naar nieuw internationaal wetgevend initiatief”, Tijdschrift voor Milieurecht, 2010, 203-224.

DeWitte, C., “At the water's edge: legal protections and funding for a new generation of climate change refugees”, Ocean & Coastal L.J. 16 (2010), 211-238

Dommen, C., “Claiming Environmental Rights: Some possibilities offered by the United Nations' Human Rights Mechanisms”, Geo. Int’l Envtl. L. Rev. 11 (1998), 1-48

Gagain, M., “Climate change, sea level rise and artificial islands: saving the Maldives’ statehood and maritime claims through the ‘constitution of the oceans’”, Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, vol. 23 (2012), 77-120

Gordon-Clark, M., “Paradise lost? Pacific island archives threatened by climate change”, Archival Science 12 (1) (2012), 51-67

Grant, T. D., “Defining statehood: the Montevideo Convention and its discontents”, 37 Colum. J. Transnat'l L. 1999, 403-457

Higgins, M., “Legal and policy impacts of sea level rise to beaches and coastal property”, Sea Grant Law and Policy Journal 1(1) (2008), 43-64

Institut de Droit International, “Resolutions Concerning the Recognition of New States and New Governments”, The American Journal of International Law 30(4) (1936), 185-187

Jain, A. G., “The 21st century Atlantis: the international law of statehood and climate change-induced loss of territory”, Stan. J. Int’l l. 50(1) (2014), 1-52

Johnson J., Bell, J. and De Young, C., “Priority adaptations to climate change for Pacific fisheries and aquaculture: Reducing risks and capitalizing on opportunities”, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: fisheries and aquaculture proceedings 28 (2013), 109

Kelman, I., “Climate Change and Displacement: Island Evacuation”, Forced Migration Review 31 (2008)

Kolmannskog, V. and Myrstad, F., “Environmental Displacement in European Asylum Law”, EJML 11 (2009) 313–326

Koskenniemi, M., “National Self-Determination Today: Problems of Legal Theory and Practice”, ICLQ 43 (1994), 241-269

Koskenniemi, M., “The future of statehood”, Harvard International Law Journal 32 (1991), 397-410

Lavalle, R., “Not Quite a Sure Thing: The Maritime Areas of Rocks and Low Tide Elevations under the UN Law of the Sea Convention”, Int’l J. Mar.&Coastal L. 19 (2004), 43-69

Mayer, B., “The international legal challenges of climate-induced migration: proposal for an international legal framework”, Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law 22 (2011), 357-416

McDorman? T. L., “The continental shelf beyond 200 nm: law and politics in the arctic ocean”, J. of transnational law & policy 18(2), 155-193

McKinley, M. A., “Conviviality, Cosmopolitan Citizenship, and Hospitality”, Unbound 5 (2009), 55-87

Milne, G. A., Gehrels, W. R., Hughes, C. W. and Tamisiea, M. E., “Identifying the Causes of Sea Level Change”, Nature Geoscience 2 (2009), 471-478

Mimura, N. and Nicholls, R. J., “Regional issues raised by sea-level rise and their policy implications”, Climate Research 11 (1998), 5-18

Mimura, N., “Vulnerability of island countries in the South Pacific to sea level rise and climate change”, Climate Research 12 (1991), 137-143

Naldi, G.J., “The case concerning the frontier dispute (Burkina Faso v Republic of Mali): Uti Possidetis in an African perspective”, International and Comparative Law Quarterly 36(4) (1987), 893-904

Nollkaemper, A., “Internationally Wrongful Acts in Domestic Courts”, The American Journal of International Law 101(4) (2007), 760-799

Nunn, P. D., “Responding to the Challenges of Climate Change in the Pacific Islands: Management and Technological Imperatives”, Climate Research 40 (2009), 211-231

Oliver, S., “A New Challenge to International Law: The Disappearance of the Entire Territory of a State”, Int'l J. on Minority & Group Rts. 16 (2009), 209-243

Orakhelashvili, A., “The Position of the Individual in International Law”, Cal.W.Int'l L.J. 31 (2001), 241-276

Pahuja, S., “The postcoloniality of international law”, Harv. Int'l L.J. 46(2) (2005), 459-469

Paparinskis, M., “Procedural Aspects of Shared Responsibility in the International Court of Justice”, Journal of International Dispute Settlement 4(2) (2013), 295-318

Perritt, H. H., “Structures and Standards for Political Trusteeship”, UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs 8 (2009), 385-472

Peters, J., “United States v. Alaska: Section 10 Permits, the Territorial Sea, and Federalism”, Ocean & Coastal L.J. 1 (1994), 59-96

Pfeffer, W. T., Harper, J. T. and O’Neel, S., “Kinematic Constraints on Glacier Contributions to 21st-Century Sea Level Rise”, Science 321 (2008), 1340-1343

Powers, A., “Sea-level rise and its impact on vulnerable states: four examples”, La. L. Rev. 73 (2012), 151-173

Puthucherril, T. G., “Change, Sea Level Rise and Protecting Displaced Coastal Communities: Possible Solutions”, Global Journal of Comparative Law 1 (2013), 1-39

Rignot, E.,  Velicogna, I., van den Broeke, M. R., Monaghan, A. and Lenaerts, J. T. M., “Acceleration of the Contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets to Sea Level Rise”, Geophysical Res. Letters 38 (2011), 1-5.

Rodriguez-Rivera, L. E., “Is the Human Right to Environment Recognized Under International Law? It Depends on the Source”, Colo. J. Int'l Envtl. L. & Pol'y 12 (2001), 1-45

Schofield, C., “Shifting limits? Sea levels rise and options to secure maritime jurisdictional claims”, CCLR 3(4) (2009), 405-416

Schreuer, C., “The Waning of the Sovereign State: Towards a New Paradigm for International Law?”, EJIL 4 (1993)

Smith, R. W. and Thomas, B. L., “Island Disputes and the Law of the Sea: An examination of Sovereignty and Delimitation Disputes”, IBRU Maritime Briefing, 2(4) (1998), 1-31

Soons, A. H., “Effects of Sea Level Rise on Maritime Limits and Boundaries”, NILR 37 (1990), 207–232.

Stahl, S., “Unprotected ground: the plight of vanishing island nations”, New York International Law Review 23 (2010)

Stoutenburg, J., “Implementing a new regime of stable maritime zones to ensure the (economic) survival of small island states threatened by sea-level rise”, IJMCL 26(2) (2011), 263-311

Symmons, C., “Ireland and the Rockall dispute: an analysis of recent developments”, IBRU Boundary and Security Bulletin 6(1) (1998), 78-93

Tol, R. S. J. and Verheyen, R., “State responsibility and compensation for climate change damages—a legal and economic assessment”, Energy Policy 32 (2004), 1109-1130

Tosini, S. C., “Foreign Sovereign Standing to Sue the United States in Its Own Courts under the Administrative Procedure Act”, J. Int'l L. 28 (2014), 91-112

Tully, S., “The Contribution of Human Rights as an Additional Perspective on Climate Change Impacts within the Pacific”, N.Z. J. Pub. & Int'l L. 5 (2007), 169-200

Van Dyke, J. and Bennet, D., “Islands and the delimitation of Ocean Space in the South China Sea”, Ocean Yearbook 10 (1999), 54-89

Vermeer, M. and Rahmstorf, S., “Global Sea Level Linked to Global Temperature”, Proceedings of the Nat’l Acad. Sci. 106 (2009), 21527-21532

Voccia, A., “Climate Change: what future for small, vulnerable states”, International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 19(2) (2011), 101-115

Whytock, C. A., “Foreign state immunity and the right to court access”, Boston University Law Review 93 (2013), 2033-2093

Wong, D., “Sovereignty sunk? The position of ‘sinking states’ at international law”, Melbourne Journal of International Law 14 (2) (2013)

Woodroffe, C. D., “Reef-Island Topography and the Vulnerability of Atolls to Sea Level Rise”, Global & Planetary Change 62 (2008), 77-96

 

Papers, essays, theses & general reports

Biagini, B., Dobardzic, S., Christiansen, L., Moore, R., Ortiz-Montemayor, C. and Schinn, D., Financing Adaptation Action: Least Developed Countries Fund, GEF, 2012, 35, www.thegef.org

Bird, N., Brown, J. and Schalatek, L., Climate Finance Policy Brief No.4: Design Challenges for the Green Climate Fund, Overseas Development Institute, 2011, 8, www.odi.org.uk

Boyle, A., Human Rights and the Environment: a Reassessment, Working Paper for UNEP (2010), 39, www.law.ed.ac.uk

Carius, A. and Maas, A. Migration and global environmental change, PD15: creating space for action: options for small island states to cope with global environmental change, document in preparation of the UK Government’s Foresight Project, Migration and Global Environmental Change, 2011

de Moor, N., International environmental law and migration: fitting the bill?, unpublished paper for the 10th Annual Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental law on “Global Environmental Law at a Crossroads”, 38

European Network of Environmental Law Organizations, Implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive in the EU: Member States Case law examples from the practice of the European environmental impact assessment litigation, Justice and Environment, 2013, 50, www.justiceandenvironment.org

Ferris, E., Cernea, M. M. and Petz, D., On the front line of climate change: learning from and with pacific countries, Project on Internal Displacement, Washington D.C., The Brookings Institution – London School of Economics, 2011, 32

G. Tsaltas, T. Bourtzis and G. Rodotheatos, Artificial islands and structures as a means of safeguarding state sovereignty against sea level rise. A law of the sea perspective, document in preparation of the 6th ABLOS Conference "Contentious Issues in LOSC - Surely Not?", 2010

Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands, Global oceans conference 2010: ensuring survival, preserving life, improving governance: summary report, 2010, 52, http://globaloceanforumdotcom.files.wordpress.com

Hall, E., Vanuatu Village Relocated due to Rising Sea Levels, ABC News, 6 December 2005, www.abc.net.au

Hayashi, M., “Sea Level Rise and the Law of the Sea: Legal and Policy Options”, in Terashima, H., (ed.), Proceedings of the International Symposium on Islands and Oceans, 2009, 160, www.sof.or.jp

Hunter, D. B., The Implications of Climate Change Litigation for International Environmental Law-Making, American University Washington College of Law, Working Paper No. 2008–14, 19

Kälin, W., “Conceptualising Climate Induced Displacement – A challenge for International Law”, Distinguished Lecture series 3, Maharniban Calcutta Research Group, March 2011, 38

Mcadam, J., ‘Disappearing states’, statelessness and the boundaries of international law, unpublished paper, University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series, 2010, 23

Mutabdzija, D. and Borders, M., Charting the course: toward a seasteading legal strategy, unpublished paper for The Seasteading Institute, 2011, 34, www.seasteading.org

Oxfam International, Adapting to Climate Change, What is needed in poor countries and who should pay, Oxfam Briefing Paper, May 2007, 47

Rayfuse R., W(h)ither Tuvalu? International law and disappearing states, unpublished paper, University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series, 2010, 13

Rayfuse, R. and Crawford, E., Climate Change, Sovereignty and Statehood, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11/59, University of Sydney, September 2011, 13.

Territorium, Oxford Dictionaries, www.oxforddictionaries.com

Tuvalu, IMF Country Report No. 12/259, International Monetary Fund, September 2012, 21, www.imf.org

Verheyen R. and Roderick, P., Beyond adaptation: The legal duty to pay compensation for climate change damage, WWF-UK Climate Change Programme Discussion Paper November 2008, 37, http://assets.wwf.org.uk

Wei, D., Dawes, R. and Maxwell, I., Receding maritime zones, uninhabitable states and climate exiles: how international law must adapt to climate change, unpublished paper for FIELD, 2011, 9, www.field.org.uk

 

Digital sources

“If we fail our environment, we fail to protect our human rights,” warn UN experts on Earth Day, OHCHR, 22 April 2013, www.ohchr.org

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Burke, T., Events, dear boy, events have put climate change back on the agenda, The Guardian, 26 March 2014, www.theguardian.com

C. Krauss, Patton Bogg settles dispute with Chevron over pollution case, New York Times, 7 May 2014, www.nytimes.com

Canada pulls out of Kyoto protocol, The Guardian, 13 December 2012, www.theguardian.com

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Financial resources and technology transfer, NZ Ministry for the Environment, www.mfe.govt.nz

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Friedman, L., If a country sinks beneath the sea, is it still a country?, Scientific American, 23 August 2010, www.scientificamerican.com

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Harris, G., Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land: Facing Rising Seas, Bangladesh Confronts the Consequences of Climate Change, The New York Times, 28 March 2014, www.nytimes.com

Hausfather, Z., IPCC’s New Estimates for Increased Sea-Level Rise, The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, Yale Climate Forum, 23 October 2013, www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org

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IPCC, Media Centre, IPCC, www.ipcc.ch

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Yardley, J., Tibetan Exiles Elect Scholar as New Prime Minister, The New York Times, 27 April 2011, www.nytimes.com

 

Pictures

Isaac Cordal, Follow the leader, Isaac Cordal, http://cementeclipses.com/works

Universiteitsstraat, World under Water, http://worldunderwater.org/#

Universiteit of Hogeschool
Master of Laws in de rechten
Publicatiejaar
2014
Kernwoorden
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