Securing the Pacific in a Globalised World: New and Emerging Developments in International Law

AuthorClaire Slatter
PositionRetired University of the South Pacific academic with research interests in development politics, economic and trade justice, and women and development
e United Nations Treaty on th e Prohibiti on of Nuclear Weapons an d two other
proposed international laws currently under development through United Nations
processes – to regu late the activ ities of corpor ations and bu siness enter prises, an d to
govern the con servatio n and sustaina ble use of marin e biological b iodiversit y in areas
beyond natio nal jurisdiction – hold eno rmous signif‌icance for Pac if‌ic states and people
in today’s globali sed world. All th ree developme nts have seen st rong involvem ent by
civil societ y organisat ions, two of the m emanating f rom civil soci ety advocac y. ese
developments provide important avenues to potentially redress historical wrongs
and protect again st human righ ts abuses and m arine resourc e pillaging. e y are not
sucient , however, to protect the Pacif‌i c Ocean, which consti tutes more than 90 per cent
of the world inhab ited by Pacif‌ic people. at may re quire legislating personho od rights
for our Ocean.
I. Introduction
Kia ora, Talofa lava, Mālō e lelei, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Kia orana, Fakatalofa atu, Malo
ni, Mauri, Bula vinaka, Halo olgeta. Let me begi n by thanking t he organisers of the
Pacif‌ic Law a nd Culture Conference 2 018 and especially E lizabeth MacPhers on and
Natalie B aird, for the kin d invitation to g ive a keynote address. It i s a little daunt ing
to be here, to be hone st, as I am not a law yer and wil l be at a loss if you begin splittin g
* This paper i s a revised version , for publication, of a k eynote address d elivered to the “ Voices of
the Pacif‌ic i n a Globali sed World” Pacif‌ic L aw and Cul ture Confe rence, Univer sity of Can terbury,
Chris tchurch on 4 Ju ly 2018. Dr C laire Sl atter is a r etired Un iversit y of the South P acif‌ic acade mic
with res earch interests i n development politics, e conomic and trade jus tice, and women and
development. She h as a background in t rade union, femin ist and development NGO ac tivism,
is a foundin g member and Boa rd Chair of Deve lopment Altern atives with Women for a Ne w Era
(DAWN), and a foun ding and act ive member of the Pac if‌ic Network on Globa lisation (PA NG).
6 [Vol 27, 2020]
legal ha irs on anyth ing I say. By way of a discla imer, let me clarif y that I am going to
be speak ing to you mostly a s a Pacif‌ic femini st scholar/activi st with a backg round in
regiona l and global acti vism, recently r etired from academ ia, and now free to w rite
and engage mor e on issues of concern to the re gion.
Takin g my cue from the t heme of this Con ference, “Voices of the P acif‌ic in a
Globalis ed World”, I want to share w ith you my thou ghts on the s ignif‌ic ance of
three new a nd emerging i nternat ional law s for Pacif‌ic stat es and people, n amely,
the hist oric Treat y on the Proh ibition of Nuclea r Weapons which wa s adopted
by the UN Genera l Assembly on 7 Ju ly 2017; the U N Human R ights Cou ncil’s
proposed int ernationa l legal ly bindi ng inst rument to re gulate t he activi ties of
trans nationa l corporation s and other bus iness enter prises, on wh ich an open-
ended intergover nmenta l Working Group be gan work in Ju ly 2015; and a propos ed
UN bindi ng treat y for the Conserv ation and Sus tain able Use of Mar ine Biologica l
Biodiversit y in Areas B eyond National Jur isdiction (BBN J), on which a UN Conference
under UNCLOS ( United Nation s Convention on the L aw of the Sea) wi ll hold four
sessions beg inni ng in Septem ber 2018, concludi ng with a t reaty i n 2020. The
three ca ses represent di erent sta ges in inter nationa l norm sett ing. T wo of them
have result ed from sus tained c ivil soc iety advocac y; all of t hem have enormous
signi f‌icance for protec ting t he interest s of Pacif‌ic Isl and stat es and peoples i n a
global ised world and should be of int erest to both Paci f‌ic law scholars a nd emerging
lawyers .
II. The Treaty on the Prohibition
of Nuclear Weapons
On 7 July 2017, the U N General Assembly adopt ed, through the vot e of 122 states,
includin g nine Paci f‌ic states , the hist oric Treat y on the Proh ibition of Nuclea r
Weapons. This monu mental ach ievement of an int ernation al treat y that out laws
nuclear weapon s was mostl y due to sust ained advo cacy by the Int ernation al
Campaig n to Abolish Nuclear Weap ons (ICAN), a network of 465 or ganisations wi th
campai gners in 100 count ries.1 I am very proud of t he fact that a close fr iend and one
of Fiji’s early act ivist s from her st udent days in the a nti-nuclear moveme nt in the
Pacif‌ic, Dr Vane ssa Grien, has been pa rt of ICAN.
In December 2017, IC AN was deservedly awa rded the 2017 Nobel Peace prize for
this mi lestone achievement . None of the seven nuclear st ates have signed t he Treaty,
and most st rongly oppose d it, clin ging to t he Cold War just if‌ication of nuc lear
1 Vanessa Gri en “Pacif‌i c’s role and his tory of nucl ear suer ing boos ted trea ty succes s” (24
October 201 7) Pacif‌ic Islan ds News Associ ation .

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT