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Legal and Policy Planning for the Vulnerable and Climate Change


H. E Nazhat Shameem Khan

PR, Fiji Mission to Geneva

Geneva School of Diplomacy, Geneva, 27th April 2016


“Degradation poses new problems such as environmental refugees. Environmental refugees suffer from significant economic, socio-cultural, and political consequences. And fourthly, environmental degradation worsens existing problems suffered by developing and developed countries. Air pollution, for example, accounts for 2.7 million to 3.0 million of deaths annually and of these, 90% are from developing countries.”

Y.K. Sabharwal, Chief Justice of India


‘As an island nation with land only 2 meters above the sea-level, the adverse effects of climate change, particularly sea-level rise, are a human rights concern for the RMI. Not only are lives at risk, but livelihoods as well vis-à-vis food security, economic security, educational security and health security, amongst others. The jeopardy of livelihoods ultimately leads to poverty, loss of land, loss of custom and culture and loss of identity which more often than not targets the most vulnerable groups, i.e., women and children.”

                President of the Marshall Island UPR Human Rights Council 2015



1. Introduction

This topic could not have a greater significance for Fiji and indeed for the world at this time. Not only have we experienced a drought, two cyclones, flooding and numerous tropical depressions in Fiji in the last 12 months, but last week Fiji ratified the Paris Agreement in New York. In the last two years Fiji has attended a number of meetings on the way in which our development plans must integrate climate change vulnerability into our national agenda. In 2013, Fiji passed a Constitution which for the first time, guaranteed a right to a clean and healthy environment. The right is enforceable and places a duty on the State to protect against the effects of climate change. Legal and policy planning for the vulnerable in the context of climate change, is therefore both compelling and legally necessary. One does not make empty promises in the Constitution. However, in planning for the future, and in progressively realising the right to a sustainable environment, a small island developing state like Fiji encounters many barriers. The challenges of ensuring that plans and laws include special measures for the particularly vulnerable are sometimes difficult to identify unless they have been mainstreamed into national planning and laws. I canvass some of these challenges in this paper.


2. A legal framework

An International Bar Association Report[1] in 2014, identified both national and international hurdles to a recognition of climate change vulnerability as a legally recognisable notion. At international level, there has been no progress towards any recognition of climate change as a legitimate ground for the displacement of persons from one jurisdiction to another. The Refugee Convention[2] has a specific definition of the acceptable grounds for application for refugee status. The definition does not include forced displacement because of climate change. The Nansen Initiative has provided some room for discussions however, on the status of persons who are losing of their homes, through no fault of their own, nor indeed of their States. The island nations which are losing their homes to the sea, have a minute carbon footprint compared with the harm caused by the developed countries of the world. But how are their rights enforceable? And against whom? The Nansen Initiative is ultimately a political initiative of a group of States (including Switzerland) which recognise that people are forced to leave their land and their homes as a direct result of climate change. The result of such recognition is less clear. In practical terms, the result is the basis of bilateral agreements which result in development aid to the affected communities and countries.

However, looking at the facts, it is clear that firstly whole nations will soon cease to exist on the land of their ancestors, and that secondly there are limited legal solutions for them in the international sphere. There have been some decisions of the European Court of Human Rights which have defined the right to life to include the right to a particular quality of life. The Indian Supreme Court delivered the first and most innovative decisions on this issue 20 years ago, in relation to slum dwellers in Bombay[3]. In Francis Coralie v Delhi[4], the Supreme Court said;

“The right to live includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, viz., the bare necessities of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter over the head and facilities for reading writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms, freely moving about and mixing and mingling with fellow human beings and must include the right to the basic necessities of life and also the right to carry on functions and activities as constitute the bare minimum expression of human self.”

However, there are several barriers to the translation of human rights and justice to an enforceable path. One is the question of the identity of the defendants. Another is the question of standing. Another is the issue of causation. Another is the question of whether a right is enforceable against the defendant. And finally there is the question of appropriate remedies. However, experience has shown us that it is almost impossible to engage the international institutions on the issue of climate change and legal policy.

In international negotiations, the principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibility is often invoked as a means of saying that the developed world has a greater burden of responsibility, but this is not a legal term, and goes to the core of the disagreement in the negotiations on what kind of commitments different countries – developed and developing- ought to take.

One way to obtain some guidance on this would be to seek an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations and responsibilities of states under international law to avoid transboundary harm caused by greenhouse gas emissions. This was the proposal of the President of Palau, when speaking at the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly.

Article 98 of the Charter of the United Nations, in respect of the International Court of Justice, says:

“(a)The General Assembly or the Security Council may request the International Court of Justice to give an advisory opinion on any legal question;

(b)Other organs of the United Nations and specialized agencies, which may at any time be so authorized by the General Assembly, may also request advisory opinions of the Court on legal questions arising within the scope of their activities.”

Accordingly, to give effect to the proposal of the Palauan President, a resolution of the General Assembly or of the Security Council requesting the ICJ for an opinion would be required. The UNFCCC is not one of the 16[5] specialised agencies authorised by the GA to have direct access to the ICJ, and on such a controversial issue it is unlikely that other specialised agencies with tangential mandates on climate change would seek such an opinion[6].

A group of interested countries formed a group called the Ambassadors for Responsibility on Climate Change (ARC) to canvas support for a General Assembly resolution seeking such an advisory opinion. Most of these countries were those on the forefront of the impacts of climate change. Over time, informal support from some developed countries in Europe was also obtained. However, without the support of the five permanent members of the Security Council, it was impossible to gain enough traction to have a General Assembly resolution passed, and work has stalled on this matter for the last two years.

The advisory opinion of the ICJ would not have a binding effect unless accepted by decision of the body that requests the opinion (in which case the decision is as it were sanctioned by international law). However this avenue of obtaining some legal clarity through defining State responsibilities pertaining to the consequences of climate change remains a possible path which may well be raised in the future again. The ICJ’s opinion would be an important part of developing international norms in the area of transboundary impacts of climate change, and could be of assistance in developing future legal frameworks.

The Security Council has discussed climate change in relation to peace and security both as a formal agenda item and as an informal “Arria” formula agenda item. 2. Under the German Presidency in July 2011, the Council considered the impact of climate change on peace and security. Although negotiations were difficult, a presidential statement (S//PRST/2011/15) was agreed to. The Council expressed “its concern that possible adverse effects of climate change may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security,…, that possible security implications of loss of territory of some States caused by sea-level-rise may arise, in particular in small low-lying island States, and it noted “that in matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security under its consideration, conflict analysis and contextual information on, inter alia, possible security implications of climate change is important, when such issues are drivers of conflict, represent a challenge to the implementation of Council mandates or endanger the process of consolidation of peace. In this regard the Council requests the Secretary-General to ensure that his reporting to the Council contains such contextual information”. However, the result of the discussion, whilst of interest is non-binding and can have little effect in relation to court proceedings nationally.

The WTO laws and frameworks have proved themselves to be ineffective in relation to the inclusion of the concept of climate justice, notwithstanding the inclusion of the informal group of Small and Vulnerable Economies.


The Human Rights Council however in recent years has succeeded in putting climate change and climate justice on the agenda, and last year held a whole day session on climate change and human rights. There have been numerous calls through the Human Rights Council for respecting human rights in all climate change-related actions and policies, and forging stronger interface and cooperation between the human rights and climate change communities. The Council itself has passed four resolutions relating to climate change (7/23, 10/4, 18/22, 26/27), albeit resolutions calling for the holding of panel discussions or seminars, and to conduct analytical studies which have no legal or binding nature. The most the HRC has been able to do is to provide the results of its analytical study of 2008 to the UNFCCC for its use, and to encourage an information exchange between the OHCHR and the UNFCCC.


One interesting aspect of the Human Rights Council work that could have implications on climate change action is the work done by the special procedure mandate holders, specifically in this regard a report by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context.


In her report, tabled to the General Assembly as A/64/255 on 6 August 2009, the Special Rapporteur discusses at length the effects of climate change on housing in urban settlements; climate change and human mobility; the impact of sea-level rise on housing in small islands and low-lying coastal areas; and goes on to discuss a human rights/adequate housing approach to climate change at all levels, from international human rights obligations in the right to adequate housing debate, international cooperation, and the strategies and effects on housing of mitigation and adaptation policies on climate change.


She goes on to conclude, “Climate change-related impacts have a range of implications for the effective implementation of the human right to adequate housing. The implications will be severe, particularly for low-income groups and those living in countries that lack the resources, infrastructure and capacity to protect their populations”. She makes a number of recommendations, including, inter alia:


  • “States have an obligation to employ measures to mitigate climate change and adapt to its inevitable impacts. At the same time, States must uphold their human rights obligations in all areas of action, including with regard to mitigation and adaptation projects and measures. They should also ensure that measures intended to protect people from the effects of climate change do not result in the unintended violation of other human rights.
  • An effective response to address the effects of climate change requires international cooperation…;
  • The Special Rapporteur supports resettlement plans only as an alternative to be used in extreme circumstances where protection of residents cannot be guaranteed in areas proven to be unsafe. During all relocation stages, human rights standards concerning adequacy of housing must be respected and decision-making must involve all affected groups;
  • The human consequences of extreme-weather disasters reflect a failure of development policies and adaptation measures rather than only natural events. Therefore, reconstruction processes should be seen as an opportunity to address short- and longer-term development problems, contributing to poverty reduction and strengthening the effective enjoyment of human rights”.


It is important to note that the recommendations of Special procedure mandate holders such as the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing or the right to food are tabled to the General Assembly for noting, and do not bind States to action. However, such reports are used as further guidance for the development of good practices on the ground, and also guide future work on the issues at the Human Rights Council.

Attempts to expand refugee law to include the term “climate refugee” has been, thus far, unsuccessful. In New Zealand a Tuvalu national who tried to apply for refugee status on the basis that his country was fast vanishing under the sea, was refused refugee status by the New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal on the climate change ground but was allowed residency on other humanitarian grounds. Nonetheless, the Tribunal did acknowledge that “exposure to the impacts of natural disasters can, in general terms, constitute a circumstance of a humanitarian nature”.

Closer to Fiji, the government of Kiribati has purchased a large area of land in Fiji either to allow the State to plant food to feed its people as the land in Kiribati gradually becomes impossible to farm, or to provide its people with a home when the land finally descends below the sea. Yet the transaction leads to more questions, in law, than it answers. Will the Kiribati land have a degree of self-governance? Will this need to be acknowledged by law? What of the Exclusive Economic Zone around Kiribati which still carries with it, seabed rights? Does the law have a role in relation to the cultural rights of the people of Kiribati? Will that role acknowledge their indigenous status in relation to Kiribati? Will there still be a duty to progressively realise their social and economic rights such as the right to water and housing, and will that duty rest, not with the Kiribati Government, but with the Fijian Government?

I am proud to say that Fiji is the first and only country in the world, which has offered a home for climate displaced persons. However, the offer and the movement of persons, must of necessity be reflected in both legal and policy changes for Fiji internally. In mapping these changes, the international law is of marginal assistance.


3. A human rights framework

Ultimately the answer for those vulnerable to climate change, must lie in national law, both constitutional and legislative. Fiji has consistently emphasised the need to mainstream climate change in our national development plans For instance our National Gender Policy approved by Cabinet in 2014, contains a chapter on a gender analysis of access to energy, disaster risk management and climate change. In the work done in Fiji after Cyclone Winston, the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers personally visited each village and settlement affected by the cyclone. The visits were grounded on two national policies. One is that a development model of climate change adaptation must be bottom-up, and two, that if adaptation is to have substantive effect of our development goals in general, then building back must be on the basis of the social and economic rights of the people of Fiji. One does not just rebuild homes after a cyclone. One builds homes which are safe from rising sea levels, which are sanitary and have clean water supplies, and are adequate in every way for the needs of the people, according to the wishes of the people. One does not just build homes - schools and medical centres are as important.

An important Constitutional issue relevant for legal and policy planning, is the progressive realisation of social and economic rights, together with the guarantee of equality in section 38 of the Constitution.

Thus access to food, water and shelter, must be delivered together with a guarantee of equality, and with consideration for those who are especially vulnerable in a disaster, women, children and those with disabilities. In policy planning and delivery of services, this means more than rhetoric in disaster risk manuals. It means a consultative process both before and after cyclones and other disasters. It means mainstreaming gender into policy planning nationally. It means ensuring that women who are pregnant have access to maternal health care. It means that there are measures adopted to reduce the possibility of gender based violence in evacuation centres, and to ensure access to immediate health care when there is a rape or sexual assault during or after a disaster. It means looking at disasters with the eyes of those who are particularly vulnerable to climate change and disasters.

Thus a framework, must be based on human rights, must be incorporated into national plans of action and development policies, must be in action manuals for climate change and disasters, and must be integrated into national initiatives by regular training of disaster management staff and non-government aid organisations. Finally, any legal framework, created to guarantee equality must be enforceable and inclusive of those who are vulnerable. There is after all, a close relationship between climate change and the guarantee of human rights.

In these measures, I believe Fiji to be unique. Not only do we have a human rights based framework for disaster management, we also have a Green Growth Framework which acknowledges special vulnerabilities. Fiji already has a plan for the resettlement of villages and communities which are most at risk from climate change. Such a plan can only be implemented in accordance with the rights guaranteed by our Constitution. In that context, we not only have a Constitutional Bill of Rights, we also have rights which are social and economic. In Fiji we do not need to read to the right to a clean environment as being included in the right to life. We have a standalone right to a clean and sustainable environment, in addition to individual sections on rights to health, to education, to environmental rights, to reasonable access to transportation, to housing and sanitation, to social security schemes, and to adequate food and water, section 44 of the Constitution provides that “if a person considers that any of the provisions of this Chapter has been, or is likely to be contravened in relation to him or her….then that person may apply to the High Court for redress.” Under section 44(3) the High Court has original jurisdiction to hear and determine applications and make any orders and directions which the Court thinks is appropriate. The power of the High Court is broad and includes a discretion to design orders which are best suited for an application.

Let’s look at an example of how that might work. A person affected by a cyclone has lost her house. She brings a case against the State claiming that the State has a responsibility to provide her with adequate housing. The State argues that it has 5000 houses to build and that its national housing plan will progressively realise rights to adequate housing but that it cannot be done overnight. However it can offer temporary housing for the claimant. The Court can order that the State provide temporary housing immediately, but that the case will be called every year in December to monitor the long term provision of adequate housing for the claimant. The same claimant says that she is a person with disabilities (the Constitution includes a section on the rights of persons with disabilities) and that the house should have ramps and specially constructed shower rooms. The Court can also consider reasonable adaptation of the house to ensure that it is adequate in the case of the claimant.

Thus there is a close connection between climate change, disaster relief and the Constitutional rights set out in the Constitution. Relevant also to enforceability is the effect of section 7 of the Constitution which states that in the interpretation of the Chapter, the courts shall promote democratic values and may apply international law. Whilst there may be a shortage of cases specifically on climate change, there are several on the right to a clean environment as a component of the right to life, and many recommendations of treaty bodies under ICCPR and ICESR which may be used to formulate interpretations of substantive rights in the context of climate change. Add to that, the right to equality under section 26 of the Constitution, which names as prohibited grounds of discrimination inter alia, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, health status, marital status and pregnancy, and which incorporates the concept of vulnerability. Equality is defined as including the “full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms recognised in this Chapter or any other written law.” Inequality then can and usually does, emerge from barriers which prevent the equal enjoyment of rights. I am a woman and I am subjected to a forced marriage. I am a person with disabilities and I cannot go to school because the school does not have ramps for my wheelchair. And then, relevant to this paper, I am a villager living in a coastal village, and I have lost my home to the rising sea. Vulnerability then is ascertained by equality of access to rights and freedoms. It is defined in terms of historical disadvantage where there has been a history of discrimination, both culturally and institutionally. And a finding of vulnerability in relation to an action brought under the Constitution may lead to remedies which are fashioned specifically to produce equality.

Regrettably, there is a shortage of international case law to this effect in relation to the right to a clean environment. However, case law recognising the intersectional nature of discrimination, is helpful in developing jurisprudence in the future. A case brought against the United Kingdom in L.C.B. V. THE UNITED KINGDOM [7] the European Court considered the nuclear testing which was conducted by the UK Government in the Pacific between 1952 and 1967. The facts were that Service personnel had to line up in the open during the tests and were possibly exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. The applicant believed that the purpose of this was to experiment on the effects of a nuclear blast. The UK government rejected this theory, contending that the servicemen were lined up to prevent injury, and that they were believed to have been at a safe distance from the nuclear blast. The applicant, whose father worked for the military, had leukaemia at four years old. The applicant cited a report by the British Nuclear Tests Veterans’ Association (BNTVA) that showed an increased risk of cancer in the children of those exposed to these nuclear blasts. The applicant argued that the nuclear blasts were the probable cause of her leukaemia. While the High Court of Justice acknowledged that this was a “good study,” the court did not find a conclusive causal link between the nuclear blasts and her leukaemia, citing evidence such as a relatively normal rate of leukaemia for the children of those exposed to nuclear blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The court found no breach of Article 2 (the right to life) of the European Convention. However the court did say that Articles 2 § 1 not only require a State to refrain from the unlawful taking of life, but it also places a positive obligation on a State to take appropriate steps to safeguard lives. The Court noted that there was not sufficient evidence to conclusively decide whether the applicant’s father was exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, and the State did not have an obligation to warn the applicant’s parents of health effects from radiation unless it “appeared likely at the time” that the radiation exposure was of a real risk to the applicant. The Court concluded that evidence supporting the causal link between the nuclear tests and cancer in children was not strong enough prompt such an obligation.

This is a case which affected many Fijian soldiers and last year the Fijian Government decided that it would compensate the families of the soldiers exposed to the radiation on the basis that they were entitled to compensation. The decision to compensate was clearly made on a political and moral basis rather than a legal one, since at the time of the testing Fiji was still a Crown colony.

A happier solution was reached in ÖNERYILDIZ V. TURKEY[8], a case brought by a slum dweller in Istanbul who claimed health risks as a result of a landfill surrounding the slum. An expert report in 1991 had concluded that the waste in the landfill was hazardous because of the potential for a methane explosion. In 1993, a methane explosion destroyed 10 houses and 9 of the applicant’s relatives. Subsequently there were civil and criminal remedies imposed in Turkey, but the applicant said that they were inadequate, thus his application to the European Court. The Court held for the applicant. Because authorities knew or ought to have known of the significant risk of a methane explosion by, at the very latest, the time of the expert report in 1991, Turkish authorities had a positive obligation to take necessary and sufficient measures to safeguard the lives of local residents. Instead of installing a gas-extraction system, which would have been effective and not overly burdensome, Turkish authorities failed to appropriate steps to prevent the explosion. While the Government of Turkey argued that a violation could not occur because the applicant lived in the slums illegally, the Court rejected this argument because authorities implicitly accepted this living situation for decades, even collecting taxes and allowing public utilities. The Court also noted that Article 2 required an effective, independent, and impartial official investigation procedure and sufficient criminal penalties for lost lives. While authorities conducted an official investigation and exposed the authorities responsible for the deaths, the courts convicted these officials for negligence in performing their duties but not for endangering the lives of others. The penalty imposed domestically was inadequate to meet the obligations arising out of Article 2 because it did not punish authorities for the lost lives.

In BUDAYEVA AND OTHERS V. RUSSIA[9] several mudslides devastated Tyrnauz in July 2000. Russian authorities did not give any warning of the first mudslide. While there was an order to evacuate the area after the first mudslide, some of the applicants returned home prematurely because there were no barriers or officials to indicate that the evacuation was still active. Some noticed that their utilities were on again and took this to mean they could return home. The next day, there was an even larger mudslide, killing the husband of one of the applicants. Several more mudslides occurred over the next week. The applicants believed that authorities inadequately maintained structures to protect them from mudslides. A 1999 warning from a state agency of an imminent disaster and a 2000 warning from the Prime Minister of KBR pointed out the poor state of a mud retention dam and a feed-through mud retention collector, but authorities never allocated any funds for repairs to these faulty structures. After the mudslides, the government gave the applicants free housing and an allowance of what was worth about 530 euros. Furthermore, a domestic court dismissed a claim against the government on the grounds that the government took all reasonable measures to protect the applicants. The applicants alleged that government authorities caused or exacerbated the effect of the mudslides and thus caused damage to their homes, possessions, and heath in violation of Article 2 and Article 3.

The Court unanimously ruled that there was a violation of Article 2 (right to life). The court said that Article 2 places a positive duty on the government to take appropriate measures to safeguard the lives of individuals, particularly in regards to dangerous activities, which includes the duty to adequately notify the public about life-threatening emergencies and to establish procedures to fix any shortcomings in protecting the right to life. The Court noted that although various reports warned of an imminent disaster and provided specific steps to prevent or mitigate a mudslide – structural fixes, an early warning system, and an evacuation plan would have helped, for example – authorities failed to implement any measures or even allocate funds to make improvements. While the government issued an evacuation order, many citizens were unaware, so this measure was ineffective. Thus the authorities failed to meet their positive obligation to take steps to protect individuals from threats to the right of life. Article 2 also requires an effective, independent, and impartial official investigation and careful judicial scrutiny of a possible breach of the right to life. The criminal investigation into the death of the applicant’s husband lasted only a week and did not look into the government’s failure to protect the town’s residents. Furthermore, during a civil suit for damages, the applicant did not have access to facts that only the authorities had access to, nor did the courts seek expert opinions. The Court ruled that this constituted a secondviolation of Article 2. Thus as a matter of law, the court found that when the government has knowledge of an imminent risk to lives or severe failures in current protections from natural disasters, the government must take all diligent measures to protect the right to life. In this case, the government took essential no steps to remedy the known risk to life from mudslides, so there was a very clear violation of Article 2.

These are cases which will help to formulate the State’s responsibilities when faced with the inevitable consequences of climate change. Fiji’s position on the Paris Agreement has been uncompromising. The 1.5 degrees commitment is not enough. Fiji believes that States should have committed to 2 degrees. Fiji’s position is backed by scientific reports issued as recently as April of 2016[10]. However, the legal and policy implications for a small island state which now knows what is about to happen and indeed is already happening to more than 45 village communities in Fiji, are significant. Government is expected to implement adaptation policies which, married with the Bill of Rights in the Constitution and shaped by international jurisprudence around the right to life, have an equally significant price tag. It is not enough to relocate villages. The villages must have adequate housing and sanitation. The children must go to schools which are free. There must be health facilities, and women children the disabled and other vulnerable groups must not be disadvantaged in the move. The discussion must then, necessarily move to the issue of climate change financing and its accessibility.


4. Climate Change v Development v Humanitarian finances

At a meeting in Washington this month[11] Fiji’s Attorney-General and Minister of Finance said that Fiji had an adaptation strategy of centralising all climate change projects at the Ministry of Finance in order to mainstream climate change issues in national policies and development plans. He said that policy makers in Fiji were thinking more creatively and that Fiji would focus on building better infrastructure in a manner that enhances resilience and lowers the future economic cost of natural disasters.

At a Side Event on Financing for Development Follow-Up[12], the Minister said that less than 10% of global climate finance is directed towards adaptation projects. He said that there was an urgent need to balance the allocation of resources between mitigation and adaptation as the Small Island Developing sates were already experiencing the negative impacts of climate change. Thus for SIDS climate change related adaptation finance was synonymous with development finance, as the whole emphasis of national development policy is building social, economic and environmental resilience in the face of climate change and disasters. However the rules governing climate finance such as the Green Climate Fund, did not always recognise this reality. Indeed, based on discussions with the Asia Development Bank, which was part of the negotiating team for a Green Climate Fund grant to Fiji in October 2015, the Technical Assessment Committee of the Fund disputed that the project was related to climate change. The Committee argued that the project was a general development project. Fortunately this view did not prevail. However, the reality is that even the law now expects development to be green.

5. Conclusion

There is now a clear synergy between legal and policy planning in countries which have to face the reality of climate change. Yet legal frameworks internationally have not been very helpful in developing the law or policy in this respect. National governments are generally left to make a choice as to how they will integrate adaptation policies into their national laws and policies. In Fiji, the value of integrating climate change into development programmes was put to the test when Cyclone Winston one of the worst cyclones to hit any part of the world, and certainly the worst in Fiji, caused widespread devastation and damage to the country. The National Disaster Management Organisation (NDMO) swung into action, involving almost every ministry and departments. Gender policy on disaster was activated together with policies on evacuation centres and schools. Cyclone relief work was both centralised and decentralised. The cluster system of working with NGO’s and aid organisations under the monitoring arm of the NDMO State machinery, meant that Fiji had ownership of disaster management and rehabilitation work. The people were consulted directly by Ministers, and in particular by the Prime Minister. The focus was on building for resilience, for stronger infrastructure and for transforming the development models of the past. And it worked. Looking at climate change as a development issue, connecting rebuilding to long term development, using bottom up consultation to hear of the needs of the people, all these strategies not only worked for Fiji, they were also consistent with tireless planning and legal framework changes at the national level. The relationship then between the law, human rights, and climate change is symbiotic. It is a relationship which will now be tested and developed as more countries experience the devastating and inexorable effects of climate change.

Nazhat Shameem Khan, Geneva, 27th April, 2016




[1] Achieving Justice and Human Rights in an Era of Climate Disruption IBA July 2014

[2] 1951 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees

[3]Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India 1978 AIR 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621

[4]Francis Coralie v. Union Territory of Delhi 1981 AIR 746, 1981 SCR (2) 516

[5]International Labour Organization (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Health Organization (WHO), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Development Association (IDA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),International Telecommunication Union (ITU), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

[6] Khatri Namita Legal implications of climate change Fiji Attorney-General’s Conference 2014

[7] 14/1997/798/1001

[8] 48939/99 DATE OF JUDGMENT 30 November 2004

[9] 15339/02, 21166/02, 20058/02, 11673/02 and 15343/0220 March 2008


[11] Climate Change; Policy Challenges for Small Middle Income Countries in Africa IMF-World Bank Spring meeting Washington DC Hon. Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

[12] 2016 ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum 18th April 2016, New York

Suva, Fiji