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Live from the SDG Hub Pavilion at COP27

Small Island States, Climate Justice and International Law

Jump to Guests
Raquel Moses
Hon Malcolm Dalesa
Christopher Bartlett
Zachary Phillips
Chukwuma Paul
Payam Akhavan
Date & Time
6:00pm, 11 November 2022 - 7:00pm, 11 November 2022
Sharm El-Sheikh, Qesm Sharm Ash Sheikh, Egypt
About the event

The homelands of Pacific, Caribbean, and Indian Ocean islanders are disappearing under rising seawater. Extreme weather events are destroying small island infrastructure, upending local livelihoods, and overwhelming public finances.

For the Commonwealth’s small island states, claims that climate change poses an existential threat are not alarmist. Rather, they reflect the real possibility that these states could be submerged under the world’s oceans in a matter of decades.

International law is one instrument that can be used to hold major polluters responsible for climate-related harm. Two flagship projects, led by Commonwealth small island Member States, have taken bold steps towards securing climate justice through the courts.

At COP26, the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda and Tuvalu came together to establish the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS). COSIS seeks legal redress for the impacts of the climate crisis through the International Law of the Sea, and its membership is growing.

Meanwhile, the Government of Vanuatu is seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on climate change which could set a precedent for legal action against polluters, and have far-reaching implications for climate change litigation and international disputes on climate harm.

If successful, both initiatives will be transformative. But to get off the ground, they require solidarity from the wider international community.

The Commonwealth Foundation and the Government of Vanuatu are bringing together key figures in the climate litigation movement in this special event, to raise awareness of the progress made and the opportunities ahead, and to build the international coalition needed to make climate justice a reality.

Photo credit: Rodney Dekker / Climate Visuals

Raquel Moses Moderator
Hon Malcolm Dalesa Panellist
Christopher Bartlett Panellist
Zachary Phillips Panellist
Chukwuma Paul Panellist
Payam Akhavan Panellist
Raquel Moses

Racquel Moses is a UNFCCC Global Ambassador and CEO of Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator. She specialises in modernising social, digital and physical infrastructure to meet the challenges of climate change.

As the newest UN Global Ambassador in the Race to Zero, Racquel has become a critical advisor for driving the shift to digital, process automation, and increasing organisational sustainability.

Racquel’s success in the public and private sectors has allowed her to drive important advancements on world-changing topics that require regional consensus, such as climate change, sustainability and building resilience.

Hon Malcolm Dalesa

Hon Malcolm Dalesa is Vanuatu’s Global Climate Diplomacy Lead, New York Mission.

Dalesa had previously served at the Department of Strategic Policy, Planning and Aid Coordination (DSPPAC) under the Prime Minister’s Office. Dalesa has worked in various units of the Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) for many years and also served as the United Nations Development Programme Pacific Risk Resilience Project Country Coordinator for several years.
Dalesa contributed to the establishment of the National Advisory Board (NAB) Secretary for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction. He was working as an Health Environment Officer at the Port Vila Municipal Council for over 12 years, after graduating from university.
His main responsibility at the UN Mission is to help raise the ICJ campaign profile, expand advocacy and cooperation with overseas countries and parties.
Christopher Bartlett

Dr. Christopher Bartlett has been living and working in the Pacific Islands for over two decades, and is currently managing the Government of Vanuatu’s Climate Diplomacy program. His extensive work with communities, civil society, private sector and governments in the Pacific have shaped his current climate action interests around climate adaptation, biodiversity, development finance and loss and damage. After being awarded a PhD at James Cook University, he joined Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom’s lab at Indiana University as a postdoc focusing on global multidimensional resource management problems.
Dr. Bartlett has written dozens of climate policy documents, managed the implementation of multiple national climate change projects, and serves as the lead negotiator on Loss & Damage for the Republic of Vanuatu.

Zachary Phillips

Zachary A. R. Phillips is currently employed as a Crown Counsel within the Attorney General’s Chambers of Antigua and Barbuda.

Zachary has a Bsc. in Political Science, a Bachelors of Laws and an LLM in Public International Law. As such, his main areas of service is in the International Law Unit of the Attorney General’s Chambers, where he is responsible for representing the interests of Antigua and Barbuda at various multi-national fora. In this capacity Zachary has attended UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow as the Legal Advisor to the Minister of Health and the Environment of Antigua and Barbuda. In his capacity as Crown Counsel, Zachary also serves as legal advisor for a few of the Global Climate Fund projects implemented by the Department of Environment within Antigua.

He is currently working with the core group of countries to draft the resolution for the ICJ Advisory Opinion initiative led by Vanuatu.

Chukwuma Paul

Chukwuma Paul serves as a board member for grants at the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition. He is a MasterCard Foundation scholar studying Global challenges with a focus on climate change, and has completed four years in Environmental management at the Federal University of Technology Owerri in Nigeria.

Previously, Chukwama has been involved in developing climate change campaign policies as a LDC5 Delegate at the UN-OHRLLS and was a youth delegate at COP27.

Payam Akhavan

Payam Akhavan is Professor of International Law and Senior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto and Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague. He is currently the legal counsel for the newly formed Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law.  
Payam was the first Legal Advisor to the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda at The Hague (1994-2000) and is currently Special Advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. He has served as legal counsel in leading cases before the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Supreme Courts of Canada and the United States.

Payam received his Doctorate from Harvard Law School and has published extensively in leading academic journals.  He was previously Full Professor at McGill University Faculty of Law (2005-20) and Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute, with other appointments at Yale Law School, Oxford University, Université Paris (Nanterre), and Sciences Po.  He is recipient of the 2021 Human Rights Award of the Law Society of Ontario. 

Virtual Event
Event Partner
Government of Vanuatu

We are excited to partner with the Government of Vanuatu to deliver this event. Vanuatu is both a Commonwealth member state and one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries. Since announcing its intention to seek an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice in 2021, Vanuatu has become a leading figure in the movement to protect vulnerable states from climate change.

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