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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Comment by UN Human Rights Chief on request for climate change opinion from International Court of Justice

29 March 2023

Locals cross a flooded area in Muloza on the border with Mozambique after the tropical Cyclone Freddy, around 100 km outside Blantyre, Malawi, March 18, 2023. © REUTERS/Esa Alexander

Geneva, 29 March 2023

I warmly welcome the landmark resolution adopted today by UN General Assembly – a resolution that seeks clarity on States’ legal and human rights obligations relative to climate change, responding to the pleas from small island States whose very existence is at risk. 

The resolution requests the International Court of Justice to provide an Advisory Opinion on the legal obligations of States with respect to climate change and its adverse impacts around the world, including for future generations. The Advisory Opinion will have tremendous potential to bring into clearer focus such obligations, including towards people in vulnerable situations, and in international cooperation, as well as providing guidance for policy and litigation to come. This could be an important catalyst for the urgent, ambitious, and equitable climate action that is needed to stop global heating and to limit and remediate climate-induced human rights harms.

Vanuatu and a broad coalition of States from all regions brought this resolution forward in the General Assembly, building on support from a committed, determined campaign by civil society – including vital voices of young people in the Pacific and beyond.

Today, it was adopted by consensus. I welcome the resolution’s clear recognition of the relevance of action today for the generations to come – people whose lives will be affected dramatically by what we do today, and what we fail to do.  

My Office has extensively documented the human rights impacts of climate change and set out the human rights obligations of States and other actors. States have obligations to mitigate and adapt to – and address loss and damage resulting from – climate change. We look forward to sharing this expertise in this highly significant process before the International Court of Justice.

Ultimately, this is about the common heritage of humanity, for present and future generations.


For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva
Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected]or
Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected] or
Jeremy Laurence +  +41 22 917 9383 / [email protected] or
Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

In New York:
Laura Gelbert + 1 917 208 6656 / [email protected]

In Nairobi
Seif Magango - +254 788 343 897 / [email protected]

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