Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, is currently in Hamburg, Germany, where he will be opening the pleadings of the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law at the hearing of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
Prime Minister Browne is the Co-Chair of the Commission (COSIS) alongside the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, His Excellency Mr. Kausea Natano.
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) is an intergovernmental organization that was created by the mandate of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.
The Tribunal was established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was signed at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on December 10, 1982. The Convention entered into force on November 16, 1994, and established an international framework for law over all ocean space, its uses, and resources.
During his discourse, Prime Minister Browne is expected to make the case for small island states on the impacts of climate change.
He will emphasize that the impacts are ongoing, devastating, and expected to worsen in the future. Prime Minister Browne is anticipating that the Tribunal will take action, as he has stated previously that for decades Small Island States have been stating these truths in international gatherings concerning climate change, including at successive Conferences of the Parties to the UNFCCC.
The country’s leader is also expected to speak about small island states’ fragile economies, as most are dependent on tourism.
Prime Minister Browne is expected to speak about the consequences of climate change as it jeopardizes Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism economy, which accounts for sixty percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
He is also expected to link climate change to increased natural hazards, sea-level rise, and ocean acidification and warming which all risk coastal destruction and the collapse of marine ecosystems that support tourism attractions and recreation of both Antigua and Barbuda and other small island states.
Prime Minister Browne is accompanied by Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Sanders, and Professor Payam Akhavan, an international lawyer and member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague.
He is also a Senior Fellow at Massey College at the University of Toronto and a visiting adjunct at its Faculty of Law.
The ITLOS is one of four dispute resolution mechanisms in Article 287 of the UNCLOS. Although a United Nations convention established the Tribunal, it is not an “organ” of the United Nations.
Even so, it maintains close links with the United Nations, and in 1997 the Tribunal concluded an Agreement on Cooperation and Relationship between the United Nations and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which established a mechanism for cooperation between the two institutions.
Prime Minister Browne will return to Antigua and Barbuda on Thursday.
In his absence, the Attorney General and Minister for Legal Affairs, the Hon. Steadroy Benjamin, will be acting as Prime Minister.