Sidley is representing the African Union pro bono in advisory proceedings before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The ITLOS has been called upon to clarify the obligations of States, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in relation to the impact of climate change on the marine environment.
In December 2022, the ITLOS was asked by the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS) to provide an advisory opinion on the obligations of States regarding the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans. ITLOS’s advisory opinions provide important guidance to shape the conduct of States.
“The African Union represents 55 African States and approximately 15% of the world’s population, including some of the countries most affected by climate change. We in Africa did not cause the climate crisis; yet we suffer disproportionately from it. The African Union would like the Tribunal to issue an advisory opinion that will help secure a just and equitable climate transition protecting the oceans and the world’s most vulnerable people. The African voice is important, and we are happy to have the able assistance of an excellent legal team in articulating our voice. The African Union will have the opportunity to file a written statement to the ITLOS and to make oral statements at a hearing,” said Dr. Guy-Fleury Ntwari, the Legal Counsel of the African Union
Iain Sandford, a partner in Sidley’s Geneva office, said, “We are honored to represent the African Union. This engagement continues our track record of representing sovereigns in complex international proceedings and our deep commitment to pro bono legal services. We are also pleased to underscore our strong commitment to the sustainable development of the African continent and its people and to the world’s oceans.” Last year, Sidley lawyers spent over 154,000 hours on pro bono work, including through programs focusing on development on the African continent.
“For the first time, an international adjudicator will have the opportunity to clarify the rules of international law on one of the defining issues of our time — climate change and its impact on the oceans. States will look to the Tribunal for guidance as they tackle climate change, whether that’s through international cooperation or national action,” said Nicolas Lockhart, a Sidley partner in Geneva, who focuses on environmental, social, and governance matters.
The Sidley team is led by partners Nicolas Lockhart and Iain Sandford in Geneva and includes Deepak Raju, Katherine Conolly, Jennifer Lim, Pem Tshering, Michail Dekastros, Stella Perantakou, Adetola Adebesin, Maryanne Kamau, Ariane Vincent, Maksym Podopryhora, Hong Sim, Shambhavi Pandey, Nina Spieler, Rebecca Walker, and Ranjeev Khatana. The team also includes Professor Kiara Neri (University of Lyon) and Dr. Mamadou Hebie (University of Leiden). The team is also receiving input from Professor Makane Moise Mbengue, Professor of International Law and Director of the Department of International Law at the University of Geneva.