International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

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Small states, legal statecraft and opening submissions in the ITLOS climate change advisory proceedings

On Monday 11 September 2023 the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea began its historic hearing of oral statements in Request for an Advisory Opinion submitted by the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law. The impassioned opening submissions given by the Prime Ministers of Antigua and Barbuda and Tuvalu, the founding member states of the Commission (‘COSIS’), should be compulsory reading or listening for anyone interested in these issues. Beyond the immediate and urgent subject matter, the proceedings also raise an additional question, one I have been interested in for some time. If there is little realistic hope of immediate compliance by greater powers (or polluters), why do small states bring cases to international tribunals? While the distinguished COSIS delegation includes thirty-odd international legal scholars and practitioners, a substantial number of whom have already spoken in proceedings, I wish to focus less on those detailed legal arguments, and more here on the opening statements as acts of legal statecraft.

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EJIL:The Podcast! Episode 18 – “Be Careful What You Ask For”

In this episode Dapo Akande, Marko Milanovic and Philippa Webb are joined by Philippe Sands (University College London and 11KBW) and Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh (University of Amsterdam and University of the South Pacific). The focus is on the advisory function of international courts and tribunals. In December 2022, the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International…

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The Competence of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in its New Advisory Proceedings on Climate Change

On the sidelines of last year’s COP26, Antigua and Barbuda and Tuvalu concluded the Agreement for the Establishment of the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (‘the Agreement’ establishing ‘the Commission’). The Agreement is open to signature by all 39 members of the Alliance of Small Island States, and currently also includes…

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Beyond COP26: Time for an Advisory Opinion on Climate Change?

The recent Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP26) provided a stark reminder of the gap between states’ planned greenhouse emission reductions and the global temperature goal enshrined in the Paris Agreement. The conference also dramatically showcased once more the plight of vulnerable nations faced with the devastating impacts of rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

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Unpacking Sovereignty and Self-determination in ITLOS and the ICC: A Bundle of Rights?

In a short space of time, two international courts have handed down rather dramatic decisions related to the contested issues of self-determination and sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago and Palestine, which have, for a very long time now, been under the UK and Israeli occupation respectively. On 28 January 2021, an ITLOS Special Chamber found…

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