Twelve countries including Germany and New Zealand stepping up to champion the campaign for an International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion on the human rights impacts of climate change on the eve of COP27 puts them on the right side of history ahead of a momentous UNGA vote in the coming months, Pacific activists and a civil society alliance said.

ICJAO UNGA Flotilla for Vote on Climate Action at UN in New York
Banner reads “Our Survival is Our Human Right”.
An alliance of activists and organisations, including Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC), Greenpeace Australia Pacific, and Amnesty International, joined by New York climate activists and Indigenous representatives, hold a Climate Justice flotilla sailing past the UN HQ and the Statue of Liberty with banners calling on countries to vote yes to the Vanuatu-led bid for an International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on climate change at the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

First devised in a University of the South Pacific classroom in 2019, the campaign now led by the Vanuatu government is seeking an advisory opinion from the ICJ, the world’s highest court, which would investigate how climate change is affecting the human rights of people and create legal clarity on how to address it.

Germany, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Uganda, Samoa, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, The Federated States of Micronesia, Costa Rica, and Lichtenstein have backed the Vanuatu government’s bid and will continue to publicly support and advocate for it as the matter is put to the UNGA for a vote late 2022-early 2023 before it can be referred to the ICJ.

While Australia endorsed the campaign in principle, pressure is now mounting on the Albanese government to join these countries in stepping up and advocating for the bid. 

Vishal Prasad, Campaigner with Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change, said: 

“This campaign began in a small South Pacific University classroom in Vanuatu, a nation on the frontline of the climate crisis where our human rights are under threat. 

“This experience is not limited to the Pacific, with hundreds of millions of people around the world having their human rights impacted by climate change. Today’s announcement that these twelve countries are standing shoulder to shoulder in championing the bid for an ICJ advisory opinion is testament not only to the global impact of the campaign, but in our increasingly unified response to a shared experience. Together, we can establish a global precedent to link human rights and climate change, and protect the rights of current and future generations.”

Sepesa Rasili, Senior Campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said: 

“With climate change causing a human rights crisis, we need global leaders to stand with those hit hardest by the climate crisis, ensure their voices are heard, and act to protect their human rights by voting yes for the resolution for an ICJ advisory opinion resolution at the UN General Assembly.

“It is incredibly disappointing that Australia has not stepped up on the global stage and joined its peers to champion this Pacific-led campaign for climate justice at the UN General Assembly.

“To live up to its promises of reconnecting with its Pacific Vuvale, Australia must give meaning to these pledges and ensure they go beyond words. We call on Australia to be a true Pacific family member and join us on this voyage for climate justice by championing the campaign for an International Court of Justice advisory opinion through COP27 to the vote at the UN General Assembly.” 

Rose Kulak, Climate Justice Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia, said:

“Amnesty International Australia is disappointed that Australia has not yet stepped up to be counted among the champions of a campaign led by Pacific civil society and nations to take the human rights impacts of climate change to the world’s highest court. 

“The impact on human rights by climate change is undeniable, and countries like Australia need to be more ambitious in their goals if we are to protect the rights of present and future generations against the adverse impacts of climate change. Australia must show its intent to be a good global citizen by championing and co-sponsoring the UN resolution for an International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion.”