The sustainability–peace nexus in crisis contexts: how the Rohingya escaped the ethnic violence in Myanmar, but are trapped into environmental challenges in Bangladesh

Saleh Ahmed, William Paul Simmons, Rashed Chowdhury, Saleemul Huq

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Because of ethnic and cultural violence in Myanmar, approximately a million Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh starting from August 2017, in what the UN has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Those arriving in Bangladesh were able to escape decade-long ethnic violence in Myanmar, but the Rohingya’s immediate destination, Cox’s Bazar district is one of the most climate-vulnerable and disaster-prone areas in Bangladesh. Currently, they have been subjected to extreme rainfalls, landslides, and flashfloods. With the COVID-19 pandemic, they continue to face fear and further marginalization in resource-constrained Bangladesh, as well as increased vulnerability due to tropical cyclones, flashfloods, and landslides. The Rohingya in southeast Bangladesh are now at the epicenter of a humanitarian and sustainability crisis. However, their situation is not entirely unique. Millions of displaced, stateless or refugees around the world are facing multi-dimensional crises in various complex geopolitical, and climatic situations. Using the theoretical lens of political ecology and critical development studies, this paper analyzes the sustainability–peace nexus for millions of Rohingya in Myanmar and in Bangladesh. This paper is based on information from various sources, including three ethnographic field visits in recent years, which helped to get local insights into the current sustainability challenges in this humanitarian context. The core arguments of this paper suggest that sustainability–peace nexus will especially be compromised in climate-vulnerable resource-constrained conditions. To overcome this challenge, decolonizing Rohingya solutions would be critical, by engaging the Rohingya in the process of development and meaningful change, which can affect their lives, livelihoods, and wellbeing. Even though this paper has a specific geographical focus, the insights are relevant in parts of the world facing similar social, economic, political, and environmental challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1201-1213
Number of pages13
JournalSustainability Science
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Ethnic violence
  • Rohingya
  • Southeast Bangladesh
  • Sustainability–peace nexus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Health(social science)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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