Low-lying States that may become uninhabitable because of climate change are confronted by many unique challenges, including whether their statehood status should continue if entire populations are forced to relocate to other States' territories. Since the criteria for establishing new States include a defined territory and a permanent population, it is sometimes assumed that these criteria are also essential for the continuity of statehood. This chapter examines the traditional Montevideo statehood criteria with respect to continuity of low-lying States, and highlights cases where States have relied on unorthodox means of meeting those criteria. It surveys alternative types of international legal personality. The analysis finds no authority to support extinguishing the legal personality of these States because of factual changes to the Montevideo criteria. It argues there is potential for either innovative solutions for maintaining statehood, or for converting to an alternative legal personality.
- United Nations
- Legal Personality
- Advisory Opinion
- International Climate Change
- Land Territory
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World Commission on Environment and Development (1987).
That data includes both the science of rising sea levels and increasing weather extremes, as well as the clear understandings of the human rights and other risks for affected peoples.
Former I-Kiribati President, Anote Tong, explained: ‘The question as to what happens to our sovereignty? I don’t think anybody has the answer’: ABC News (2 April 2007) Kiribati’s President: ‘Our Lives Are At Stake’. ABC News. Available at http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=3002001&page=1. Accessed 7 September 2016.
Rayfuse (2011), p. 284.
UNHCR (2011), at .
Chimni (2007), pp. 500 and 507.
Charter of the United Nations, art 2(1); VCLT at preamble, seventh recital.
Charter of the United Nations, art 2(4).
For example, ‘President H.E. Anote Tong addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations…and stressed that it was the Government’s desire to “maintain our homeland and our sovereignty”’: Office of the President of Kiribati (26 September 2009) President tells of greatest challenge. Available at http://www.climate.gov.ki/2009/09/26/president-tong-addresses-the-un-general-assembly/. Accessed 7 September 2016.
Contrast Rayfuse (2011), p. 284: ‘As the territory of a threatened island State disappears beneath the waves, the criteria of territory will no longer be met and the claim to statehood will fail’.
Soanes and Stevenson (2009), p. 1044.
A study of peer-reviewed literature on global warming found that 99.99 per cent of published scientists agree that climate change is occurring and is anthropogenic: Powell (2016).
Stocker et al. (2013), p. 1139.
Note that these problems are generalised here and that natural systems are complex and there are some naturally occurring processes that mitigate some of these events. However, the processes that mitigate these impacts are generally outstripped by the climate change effects that create these effects so that the overall effect is clearly negative: see generally Field et al. (2014a), chapter 29: Small Islands.
Field et al. (2014a), at 188.8.131.52.
Barnett and Adger (2003), p. 325.
Ibid at 184.108.40.206.
Field et al. (2014a), at 220.127.116.11.
King and Henley (2016).
The potential for ‘astronomical’ adaptation costs were a key reason why the United States would not accept references to liability and compensation in the Paris Agreement: Little (2015).
Shaig (2006), p. 15.
United Nations UN Data (2016a).
Field et al. (2014a), at 29.1.
Field et al. (2014b), at 21.
Yamin and Depledge (2004), p. 213.
UNFCCC (1992), article 1, ‘adverse effects of climate change’.
Crawford (2006), p. 34.
Charter of the United Nations, art 2(1) and UNGA Declaration on Friendly Relations (1970), p. 124.
UNFCCC (2015b) Paris Agreement, art 7.
Ibid., art 7(4).
Ibid., art 7(6) (emphasis added).
Ibid., at preamble, fifth recital.
See Randall (2015).
Krasner (2001), p. 17.
Besson (2009), p. 360.
Charter of the United Nations, art 2(1).
Statute of the International Court of Justice, art 34.
Montevideo Convention, art 4.
Ibid., art 5.
Harrison (2007), p. 161: ‘[I]f law makes states, it is states that make the law that makes states … those already in the family allow new members to enter’.
New Zealand Government (2009), p. 3.
Montevideo Convention, art 1.
Shaw (2014), p. 198.
Duursma (1996), p. 116.
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, art 121(1). For a recent exposition on what comprises an ‘island’, see In the Matter of the South China Sea Arbitration (Philippines v China) (Award)  PCA Case No 2013–19 at –.
Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain , at .
The Island of Palmas case (1928), p. 855.
Ibid., p. 838.
Ibid., p. 855.
Taylor (1997), p. 758.
McAdam (2010), pp. 7 and 11.
‘Deposit by Kiribati of list of geographical coordinates of points, pursuant to article 16, paragraph 2, article 47, paragraph 9, and article 75, paragraph 2, of the Convention’ (2 January 2015) M.Z.N.111.2015.LOS; ‘Deposit by the Republic of the Marshall Islands of geographical coordinates of points, pursuant to article 16, paragraph 2, article 47, paragraph 9, and article 75, paragraph 2, and article 84, paragraph 2 of the Convention’ (3 May 2016) M.Z.N.120.2016.LOS; and ‘Deposit by Tuvalu of lists of coordinates of points, pursuant to article 16, paragraph 2, article 47, paragraph 9, and article 75, paragraph 2, and article 84, paragraph 2, of the Convention’ (4 September 2013) M.Z.N.98.2013.LOS.
For example, Agreement between Tuvalu and Kiribati regarding their Maritime Boundary (29 August 2012).
For example, Republic of the Marshall Islands Maritime Zones Declaration Act 2016.
Montevideo Convention, art 4.
Crawford (2006), at 59.
Dupont and Pearman (2006), p. 47.
Rayfuse (2011), pp. 282 and 284.
Ryngaert and Sobrie (2011), p. 472.
Legal Status of Eastern Greenland (1933), p. 46.
Crawford (2006), p. 132.
UNFCCC (1992), art 2.
Expert Group on Global Climate Obligations (2015).
McAdam (2010), p. 1.
Office of the President of Kiribati (2010).
Displacement Solutions (2010), p. 20.
Rayfuse (2011), p. 282.
Duursma (1996), p. 117.
In re Duchy of Sealand , p. 687.
Brownlie (2008), pp. 70–71.
See Burkett (2011).
Crawford (2006), pp. 57–59.
Ibid., p. 33.
Park (2011), pp. 12–14.
Sinclair (2008), p. 41.
Brooks (2005), p. 1160.
Kahl (2006), p. 44.
For instance, Chad, Somalia and Zimbabwe: see Foreign Policy (2016).
McAdam (2010), pp. 6 and 8.
Shaw (2014), p. 146.
Montevideo Convention, art 4.
Western Sahara , at .
Crawford (2006), p. 59.
Crawford (1979), p. 56.
U.S. Restatement of the Law, Third, Foreign Relations Law of the United States, Vol. 1, Sec. 201, cited in Grant and Barker (2009), p. 574.
Crawford (1979), p. 47.
VCLT, arts 54–60. Note certain exceptions including supervening impossibility of performance (art 61) and fundamental change of circumstances (art 62).
Ryngaert and Sobrie (2011), p. 470.
Rayfuse (2011), p. 281.
Tinoco Claims Arbitration (1923), pp. 377–379.
Montevideo Convention, above n 58, art 6 (emphasis added).
Crawford (2006), p. 715.
McAdam (2010), pp. 5–6.
Shearer (1994), p. 85.
Grant (1999), p. 435.
Ryngaert and Sobrie (2011), p. 467.
Banderas News (2009).
Charter of the United Nations, art 4.
Montevideo Convention, art 3.
Crawford (2006), p. 27.
UNGA Declaration on Friendly Relations (1970), p. 123.
Charter of the United Nations, art 1(2).
UNGA Declaration on Friendly Relations (1970), pp. 123–124.
Ibid., p. 124.
Taylor (1997), p. 748.
Crawford (2006), p. 32.
The Island of Palmas case (1928), p. 838.
Ibid., p. 55.
Krasner (2001), p. 18.
Fowler and Bunck (1995), p. 5.
The Peace of Westphalia is a series of treaties signed in 1648. See Charter of the United Nations, art 2 and UNGA Declaration on Friendly Relations (1970).
Brownlie (2008), p. 106.
Brownlie (2008), p. 119.
Ibid., p. 64.
Rayfuse (2011), p. 285.
United Nations Security Council (1948), per United States Ambassador Jessup.
The real examples, such as the Sovereign Order of Malta, show this conclusion to be incorrect. Other examples are indigenous communities, which often have many members who do not reside within a fixed region but maintain a close affinity and relationship with a central, tribal entity with governance functions. Whilst such realities create challenges for indigenous communities, it would be erroneous to describe the situation as ‘a kind of disembodied spirit’.
Peremptory norms, also known as jus cogens, are principles of international law that are fundamental and no derogation is permitted: VCLT, art 53. Generally accepted peremptory norms include the prohibition of genocide, torture, and wars of aggression.
Ryngaert (2011), p. 830.
Ryngaert (2011), p. 830.
Cox (2006), p. 212.
Ibid., p. 214.
Ibid., p. 222.
Sovereign Order of Malta (2016).
United Nations (2016b).
For example, a passport issued by the Sovereign Order of Malta would not be recognised in New Zealand under section 2 of the Passports Act 1992 due to inability to recognise nationality of holder.
Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties 1946, art 2(1)(b)–(c).
Claude (1993), p. 218.
Boutros-Ghali (1992), pp. 98–99.
Jennings and Watts (1992), pp. 125–126.
G Schwarzenberger A Manual of International Law (6th ed, Security Council Official Records, London, 1976), as cited in Crawford (2006), p. 28.
Reparation for Injuries Suffered in the Service of the United Nations , pp. 178–179.
Taylor (1997), p. 747.
Ibid., pp. 746–747.
Individuals generally lack standing to assert violation of international law in the absence of a protest by the state of nationality although states may agree to confer particular rights on individuals which will be enforceable under international law. See, for example, Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art 1. For an example of a treaty conferring legal standing to corporations, see Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States, art 25(2)(b).
Crawford (2006), p. 29.
Charter of the United Nations, art 10.
Ibid., art 13(1).
Legality of the Use by a State of Nuclear Weapons in Armed Conflict , pp. 254–255.
Western Sahara , at –.
Accordance with law of the unilateral declaration of independence in respect of Kosovo , at .
Legality of the Use by a State of Nuclear Weapons in Armed Conflict , p. 235.
Barnett and Campbell (2010), pp. 102–103.
This is encapsulated in the ‘Pacific Way’, an expression coined in 1970 by the Prime Minister of Fiji at the time, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, to explain the capacity of Pacific Islands to work together and to resolve their disputes through dialogue: see Costi and Boister (2006), p. 1.
VCLT, art 26.
Statute of the International Court of Justice, art 38(1)(b).
Brownlie (2008), p. 6.
Ibid., p. 7.
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Costi, A., Ross, N.J. (2017). The Ongoing Legal Status of Low-Lying States in the Climate-Changed Future. In: Butler, P., Morris, C. (eds) Small States in a Legal World. The World of Small States, vol 1. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39366-7_6
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