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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Campaigners urge countries to support Vanuatu’s climate justice initiative

A global alliance of civil society groups, representing over 1,500 civil society organisations in 130 countries, was launched on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, to support a powerful new climate justice initiative by the Government of Vanuatu to take the human rights impacts of climate change to the world’s highest court, the International Court of Justice.

Bob Loughman Weibur
Bob Loughman Weibur, Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu

The Government of Vanuatu has announced that it will take a proposal to the United Nations General Assembly in September, which will then vote whether to refer the matter to the court.

The United Nations General Assembly will consider the Government of Vanuatu’s proposal in September, requiring a simple majority vote to send the question to the International Court of Justice.

The civil society alliance led by the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change with support from Climate Action Network, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, 350 Pacific, Pacific Islands Climate Action Network and Vanuatu Climate Action Network is calling on all countries to support the Government of Vanuatu’s proposal with a vote in favour of the resolution in September reflecting a global commitment to fight the climate crisis and protect human rights.

Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, Climate Action Network, said: “This initiative by the Government of Vanuatu puts the protection of human rights at the heart of our struggle for climate justice. We are witnessing how escalating climate impacts are undermining people’s rights in every way.”

“Hundreds of millions of people impacted by climate change across the world, and particularly in developing countries, are being denied their fundamental rights – the right to food, water, shelter, property, freedom of movement, livelihoods, health and a clean environment. We urge all countries to support this initiative and recognise that the climate crisis is at its core a human rights crisis.”

Romabeth Siri, Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change Vanuatu Campaigner, said: “Youth are leading this campaign because they are fighting for their future. The science is clear, if the world doesn’t get serious about stopping climate change this decade, our future will be destroyed. We are literally fighting for the survival of our lands, our oceans, our culture and the generations unborn.
Young people everywhere are entitled to a right to equal access to justice and the right to remedy. Seeking clarification from the International Court of Justice to secure their interests and their children’s interests is therefore their right.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Climate Justice Campaigner, Justin Rose, said: “Whoever leads the Australian Government has a unique opportunity to show true friendship with our Pacific neighbours by standing in solidarity with them in supporting Vanuatu’s bid to have the world’s highest court consider the world’s most important challenge – climate change. The recent flood disaster in Australia demonstrates with tragic clarity the truth of the warnings our Pacific neighbours have been sending us for many years – no one is immune to the climate crisis.”

Lavetanalagi Seru, Regional Policy Coordinator, Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, said: “Seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on human rights and climate change is another tool in our toolbox that we must use in our urgent and collective efforts to bolster action on climate change. In many frontline climate change affected communities today, the most vulnerable, including women and girls, elderly people, people with disabilities, indigenous communities, LGBTQI, youth and other marginalised groups, have, and will continue to experience their basic human rights being undermined.

“We applaud the Government of Vanuatu on its intention to seek a resolution from the UN General Assembly this year, and we call on the global civil society family and most importantly on all countries to support this important initiative, which is predicated on human rights and intergenerational equity.”

Joseph Sikulu, Pacific Director, 350.org, said: “The Pacific has already shown that governments and civil society can work together to achieve impactful change; the 1.5-degree benchmark being ingrained into the Paris Agreement is a testament to that. Through this alliance we hope to continue to weave together advocacy at all levels to build momentum behind the Vanuatu Government’s push for this Advisory Opinion.

“We will work to strengthen our ties as a Pacific family and build an intergenerational movement of Pacific people everywhere rallying behind the ICJAO.”

In September 2021, during the annual session of the UN General Assembly, Bob Loughman Weibur, Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu, announced his intention to build a coalition of States to seek an advisory opinion on climate change from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Vanuatu’s diplomatic campaign is led by Ambassador Odo Tevi, Vanuatu’s Special Envoy on Climate Change and Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

The interest of this initiative, according to CSOs, goes beyond the concerns of Vanuatu: it is of utmost importance for all climate vulnerable countries and peoples and ultimately for the world at large.

Vanuatu, they add, sees this initiative as an opportunity for all States, and in particular climate vulnerable States, to raise awareness about climate change and its disproportionate impacts on the most vulnerable.

Already states are signing on to the campaign. At the thirty-third inter-sessional Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in March 2022, Heads of Government have indicated their support for Vanuatu in its pursuit of an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice on the rights of present and future generations to be protected from Climate Change.

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