Foreign Relations & International Law

The Lawfare Podcast: Vanuatu's Big Climate Win with Melissa Stewart

Jen Patja, Tyler McBrien, Melissa Stewart
Monday, April 17, 2023, 12:00 PM
On Vanuatu's “diplomatic feat of Herculean proportions" in New York City. 

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The Republic of Vanuatu, a small island nation in the South Pacific, just won a big victory in New York City. At the end of March, the UN General Assembly voted to adopt the request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of states with respect to climate change.

To talk through what Vanuatu's general counsel called, “a diplomatic feat of Herculean proportions,” Lawfare Managing Editor Tyler McBrien sat down with Melissa Stewart, Assistant Professor of Law Designate at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, and the author of a recent Lawfare article on the advisory opinion request and its potential risks and rewards. They discussed how an idea that began in an environmental law class in Fiji made it to the highest court in the world, what the ICJ might clarify or not, other efforts in international law to address climate change, and how territorial loss and other destructive effects from climate change could upend our traditional conception of statehood as we know it.

Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Tyler McBrien is the managing editor of Lawfare. He previously worked as an editor with the Council on Foreign Relations and a Princeton in Africa Fellow with Equal Education in South Africa, and holds an MA in international relations from the University of Chicago.
Melissa Stewart is a Research Fellow and Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, where she writes and teaches in the areas of international law and human rights. She is an Assistant Professor of Law Designate at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, William S. Richardson School of Law and will join the faculty in August 2023. Prior to academia, Stewart practiced in the area of public international law as an Associate in the International Litigation and Arbitration Department and United Nations Practice Group at Foley Hoag, LLP.

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