Experts Discuss the Protection of Persons Affected by Sea-Level Rise

30 May 2022

In the context of the work of the United Nations (UN) International Law Commission (ILC) Working Group on ‘Sea-Level Rise in Relation to International Law’, the Geneva Academy and the Roma Tre University Law Department – in cooperation with the Yearbook of International Disaster Law – organized an expert meeting to discuss issues related to the protection of persons affected by sea-level rise.

The expert meeting focused on the content of the second issue paper of the ILC Working Group elaborated by Professors Patrícia Galvão Teles and Juan José Ruda Santolaria which deals with the protection of persons affected by sea-level rise and statehood.

‘This important and timely issue is not only fascinating from an international law perspective – as it is at the crossroad of several international legal frameworks (touching upon statehood, human rights law, migration law or disaster law – but also because it involves complex protection issues that require finding solutions out of the box and to anticipate needs before it is too late’ underlines Professor Gloria Gaggioli, Director of the Geneva Academy.

From Displacement to the Human Rights of Persons Displaced By Sea-Level Rise

Participants included ILC members, diplomats, as well as representatives from Human Rights Watch, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of the Red Cross, the ILC Secretariat, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Organization for Migration, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Bank and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

They addressed – based on Chatham House Rules – displacement issues, human rights of persons affected by sea-level rise, and cooperation related to this phenomenon.

Leading experts on displacement questions – Photini Pazartzis (Chair of the UN Human Rights Committee), Walter Kälin (Envoy of the Chair, Platform on Disaster Displacement), Ian Fry (UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change), Jane McAdam (Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Refugee Law), Bruce Borson (New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal), Vincent Chetail (Director of the Global Migration Centre at the Graduate Institute), Margaretha Wewerinke-Sink (Assistant Professor of Public International Law at Leiden University) and Mara Tignino (Reader and Lead Legal Specialist at the Geneva Water Hub at the University of Geneva) – delivered initial comments on these three topics.

Expert meeting on sea-level rise

Inputting and Contributing to the ILC Work on Sea-Level Rise

The activities of this ILC Working Group will result, in the coming years, in a substantial report that will address the different issues related to sea-level rise and international law, namely the law of the sea, statehood and the protection of persons affected by sea-level rise.

‘This timely meeting, in light of the parallel discussion at the ILC on this report, was particularly fruitful to foster the dialogue between members of the UN ILC working group on ‘Sea-level rise in relation to international law’ and external actors able to provide inputs, critical comments, and insights on relevant practice. Such dialogue might be particularly helpful for future activities to be carried out by the ILC on this topic and could permit Professor Patrícia Galvão Teles, in charge of this track, to take advantage of such contacts and expertise in view of the submission of a future report to the ILC’ says Giulio Bartolini, Associate Professor of International law at Roma Tre University.

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