Pacific youth formed a flotilla along the coastline of the Fijian capital, Suva, today in a call to the leaders of the region supporting Vanuatu’s bid to get an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Vanuatu started a campaign to ask the ICJ for an advisory opinion on the human rights impacts of climate change which if successful could have a huge legal impact on climate change work.
While individual countries cannot directly ask for an ICJ advisory opinion, the Charter of the United Nations allows the General Assembly, the Security Council or UN recognized agencies to request an ICJ advisory opinion on contentious legal issues.
The campaign has the support of 1500 civil society organizations (CSO) and several geopolitical blocs, however, the bid is yet to be endorsed by the Pacific Islands Forum.
The mostly student-led drive of more than 20 boats, canoes, and stand up paddlers unfurled an overwater banner on the Suva shore which calls for Pacific leaders’ attention on the ICJ bid.
At least 15 Pacific leaders are expected to attend the 51st Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting (PIFLM51) next week with senior ministers already in the country for related meetings.
At Friday night’s forum foreign ministers’ meeting in Suva, Vanuatu formally asked that the ICJ advisory opinion be endorsed.
The Suva flotilla was staged by Pacific youth activists alongside Greenpeace Australia Pacific, 350.org Pacific Climate Warriors, Amnesty International, and other groups.
Advisory opinion crucial – activist
Vishal Prasad of the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change said the time for band-aid solutions has passed.
“We are seeing the impacts of climate change on a daily basis – on our livelihoods, housing, food, water, sanitation, healthcare and the environment.
“This is a global problem and we need a global solution. An advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice is exactly that. It would mean we could better enforce the Paris Climate Agreement, and by ensuring human rights is at the fore of all climate responses.
“It would allow the peoples of the Pacific, who are experiencing the worst of the climate crisis, to affect broad, accelerated change. This is an idea whose time has come and we call on world leaders to step up and support it.”
Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s Steph Hodgins-May said the flotilla sent a strong message to delegates arriving in Suva.
“These individuals, and the governments they represent, have the power to make a huge difference to global climate policy by supporting the campaign for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on Human Rights and Climate Change.”
“An ICJ ruling will explore how climate change is affecting the human rights of people and create legal clarity on how to address it, including providing an international legal framework for those experiencing the worst of the climate crisis to affect broad, accelerated change.
“By voting yes at the UN General Assembly, countries can ensure that Pacific Island nations have a greater voice on the international stage, and provide a legal framework for countries around the globe.”
Several panel discussions on the program
Meanwhile the PIFLM51 begins on Monday with the smaller island states leaders’ meeting and the meeting of leaders of Pacific ACP countries.
On Tuesday the program includes the leaders dialogue panel as well as the first public event, the “Talanoa ena bati ni Tanoa: A conversation with Pacific Leaders”.
On Wednesday are the Pacific Islands Forum panel with civil society and private sector as well as the forum panel for members with heads of the Council of Regional Organizations of the Pacific (CROP).
The second “Talanoa ena bati ni Tanoa: A conversation with Pacific Leaders” takes place in the afternoon with a focus on Pacific leadership and regionalism.
The forum leaders’ retreat concludes the week’s activities on Thursday.