Taking the World’s Biggest Problem to the World’s Highest Court

Hey everyone! My, how time flies. Hope you’ve all been enjoying your summers, I’ve really been enjoying mine! For my summer internship, I’ve been working with the team at Vanuatu’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations on the campaign to bring the issue of transboundary harm and climate change to the world’s highest court, the International Court of Justice.

Location of Vanuatu. Photo Credit to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

As one of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS), Vanuatu faces the disproportionate burden of climate change and the very harrowing reality that sea level rise is threatening the ancestral way of life. Already, Pacific Islanders face unprecedented storms and saltwater intrusion that has been destroying village infrastructure, agricultural production and threatens food security. And while Pacific Islanders bear this burden, they are not responsible for the share of emissions that has caused the issue. For years, nations most vulnerable to climate change have petitioned the developed world to address climate justice through negotiations within the global climate regime. Thus far, these negotiations have only produced empty promises. Now, climate vulnerable nations from around the world are seeking clarification on what the legal obligation of states are in regard to the climate crisis. Vanuatu has been leading this initiative with a proposal for the United Nations General Assembly to petition the International Court of Justice for and Advisory Opinion on this issue.

My work over the last few weeks has been busy, keeping up with a number of different related conferences, events and bilateral meetings that our team has been both hosting and attending in tandem with the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon last month. I’ve been managing our social media accounts with my colleagues (follow us on Twitter! @VanuatuUN) as Ambassador Odo Tevi and the rest of the team were on the ground attending the Climate Change and International Law conference at the Peace Palace in the Hague, hosted by Blue Ocean Law and Leiden University, as well as our side event at the UN Ocean Conference. My blog on the Peace Palace conference is set to be published this week, and I look forward to sharing it with you all!

The movement has been gaining traction and has been trending in the news cycle thanks the support of the Pacific Island Forum, which concluded last week. I’m looking forward to continuing my work supporting the communications team and will be also assisting in planning our next conference in New York, so stay tuned for more updates as this exciting campaign unfolds! In the meantime, enjoy this picture of my colleague Samia Shell and I during our interview with Kabweea Itintaake, a fellow with AOSIS, on her perspective on the climate crisis as a native youth of Kiribati. Kabweea will be featured on our new instagram campaign, which I will be creating and launching this week, highlighting the experiences of youth in the Pacific and how climate has impacted their lives and their communities.

My colleague Samia Shell, top right, and I in our interview with Kabweea Itintaake, pictured top left. We were all smiles after an empowering conversation. Kabweea will be the first feature on our campaign instagram account!

I also want to thank those of you that support us as fellows at the Center for Blue Economy. I feel incredibly grateful to be working where I am now, and this opportunity to work in such a critical and challenging legal space would not be possible without our funders. Thank you to all who have supported this program.