Youth and civil society agencies from around the Pacific Islands, part of the Vanuatu Climate Action Network (VCAN), are urgently calling on Pacific leaders to endorse a proposal for the International Court of Justice to provide an advisory opinion on the obligations of states under international law to protect the rights of present and future generations against the adverse effects of climate change.
The draft resolution has make it successfully through the Pacific Island Forum Foreign Minister’s Meeting, but faces a major battle when 18 Leaders meet in Tuvalu from 13-16 August 2019.
The Pacific Island Forum is an inter-governmental organization that aims to enhance cooperation between countries and territories of the Pacific Ocean. As the primarily political regional agency, its decisions and declarations carry substantial weight and set the international agenda of Pacific Island nations.
Last year in 2018, the PIF leaders released the Boe Declaration on Regional Security, which reaffirmed that “climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific and our commitment to progress the implementation of the Paris Agreement”.
Of concern to Pacific youth is that the Pacific Island Forum is also made up of some members who may not wish the highest global court to give legal precedent to their own direct coal and fossil fuel related responsibility for the climate emergency that is devastating Pacific Islands.
VCAN sends its strong demand that ALL Pacific leaders must listen to their youth, their future generations, and allow the International Court of Justice to give its legal opinion on the Climate Crisis. If the 2019 Pacific Island Forum includes this issue in its declaration, the next step will be a vote in the General Assembly of the United Nations next year.
VCAN member organization, the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC) campaign has released a video “The World is an Island” showcasing the need for an International Court of Justice opinion, as well as an petition that has attracted more than 4,900 signatures in three weeks, mainly from Pacific island countries.
VCAN influencing officer, George Koran, argues that “For the future of all Pacific islanders, our leaders need to answer the recent call of the United Nations Secretary General and really make their voices heard on climate law at the UN. Transformational change is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the Paris Agreement is failing to do that. We need new approaches; this is our best option.”
VCAN’s Stephanie Stephens reflects that “Some of our leaders are not yet hearing our voices, and some Pacific governments are actively lobbying against this initiative, arguing that protecting human rights would be “unwise”. How can we delay in taking action to protect of our future generations against the adverse effects of climate change? Leaders must agree to raise this issue to the International Court of Justice so our cries for climate justice to be heard on the biggest and most respected stage in the world.”
As Pacific leaders meet in Tuvalu, the Vanuatu Climate Action Network is calling on all youth from around the region to make their leaders hear their demands, organize peaceful actions and join in solidarity with youth around the world who are transforming climate policy to protect our plant.
The Vanuatu Climate Action Network includes over 40 members from community, subnational, and international civil society groups, and is the country node of the Pacific Island Climate Action Network.