Nuclear weapons, climate change and human rights

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Date(s) - 01/Jul/2022
1:15 pm - 2:45 pm

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Using international human rights law to address existential threats. A side event to the UN Human Rights Council 50th Regular Session.

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  • Phon van den Biesen. (Netherlands).
    Attorney at Law, Amsterdam. Co-President, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms. Co-Agent and/or member of legal teams for the 1996 International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on nuclear weapons, Marshall Islands 2016 ICJ Nuclear Weapons Case, and Bosnia’s Genocide ICJ case against Serbia.
  • Prof Nick Grief. (United Kingdom).
    Emeritus Professor, Kent Law School. In IALANA’s legal team for the 1996 ICJ Advisory Opinion on nuclear weapons and Counsel & Advocate for the Marshall Islands in the 2016 ICJ Nuclear Weapons Case. (online)
  • Joshua Cooper (Hawaii, USA).
    Lecturer at University of Hawai’i and Executive Director, Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights.
  • Laia Roxane Guardiola (Switzerland).
    Research and Teaching Fellow, Institute for International Law and Comparative Constitutional Law at the University of Zurich. Switzerland Representative of World’s Youth for Climate Justice.

In 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee affirmed in General Comment 36 that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is a violation of the Right to Life (Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). The Committee also affirmed that climate change threatens the Right to Life.

This event will discuss ways to implement General Comment 36 with respect to nuclear weapons and climate change, including through the Universal Periodic Review of the human rights obligations of states parties. In this cycle, the co-sponsoring organizations have submitted questions and recommendations on the policies and practices of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Coming at a time when Russia has made nuclear threats to the USA and NATO if they intervene in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the submissions are a reminder of the importance to address the risks of nuclear deterrence policies, and that Russia is not the only country that possesses nuclear weapons and maintains options to initiate nuclear war.

On the climate change front, recent figures from the International Energy Agency indicate that carbon emissions continue to climb, reaching a collosal 36.3 gigatones in 2021.

Current actions by governments are insufficient to address these two existential threats to humanity and the violations of existing policies and practices to the human rights of current and future generations.