Pacific Island Youths have expressed gratitude following a historic win at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) after the United Nations has just brought the world’s biggest problem to the world’s highest court.

In a vote this morning, the UNGA adopted the resolution to request the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to provide an advisory opinion on the obligations of the state to protect the rights of individuals against the impacts of climate change.

132 states including the Solomon Islands co-sponsored the initiative.

In an interview with SIBC News, President of Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC), Cynthia Hou acknowledged the decision made by the UNGA.

PISFCC President, Ms. Cynthia Hou. Photo: PISFCC/FB

“It seems surreal. I cannot believe that a wild idea we had about this initiative 4 years ago in a classroom at the University of the South Pacific has made its way to the United Nations General Assembly.”

 “We were law students being challenged but wanting to do what we can to contribute to this fight – and today it resulted in a Historic UN Vote.”

Ms. Hou has also emphasized on the role youths have contributed to the initiative’s achievement.

“It was a vote by consensus which speaks of the importance that most of the UN member states placed on the issue of climate change and human rights.”

“And the pacific youths played an integral role, in not just convincing pacific governments and civil society organizations but globally, we have united many young people across the world to also encourage their governments to also support. This is a huge milestone, but the world has just begun,” she said.

The Vanuatu Government has been instrumental in supporting the initiative since 2021, with support from a global alliance of civil society groups representing more than 1,500 civil society organizations launched the campaign to call on the ICJ for an opinion on the climate crisis.

The Pacific Islands Forum 2022 communique further shows support from other Pacific Island countries towards the initiative, as Leaders commended Vanuatu’s initiative and to request the ICJ for a legal opinion on the climate crisis.

This is for the ICJ to clarify legal consequences of climate change, noting the urgency of the threat and the need for accelerated global action and implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Following today’s decision, the UN Secretariat will prepare English and French certified copies of the resolution and communicate them to the Court within two weeks.

The ICJ will then invite all states to provide written and oral statements. 

“So, we encourage every country and Inter-governmental organization to contribute and participate at the court. For us in the Pacific this gives us an opportunity to collect evidence to show that states have a responsibility to protect human rights and need to rank up ambition.”

“This might take a few months for the proceedings, it might even take 6 to 12 months or more depending on the court proceedings and deliberation before the advisory opinion itself could be delivered,” PISFCC President Ms. Hou explained.

She encourages youths to continue to support the initiative at all levels.

“However, this role should not stop at the UNGA.”

“Our role should continue into the second phase as it is in our best interest that we play this role as the resolution captures the intergenerational equity principle in the wording.”


By Eliza Kukutu

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