The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
An Interview with PISFCC: Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change
By Katie Ingegneri on October 27, 2021
This year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, will be the most crucial gathering yet. As climate change effects continue to worsen around the globe, resulting in increasingly destructive storms, fires, flooding, and other impacts, the time is now for world leaders to take decisive action on this issue.
UUSC partners Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change, or PISFCC, provide an inspiring example of young people from frontline communities taking charge, putting the pressure on leaders and lawmakers to do something about this existential threat to humanity, which is disproportionately impacting communities such as Pacific Island nations.
In our interview, learn more about PISFCC’s work, their hopes for COP26, and how allies can support their work.
- Tell us about your organization, Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change.
The Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC) is a youth-led organization in the Pacific campaigning for an International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion (ICJAO) on climate change and human rights. It currently has four chapters in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and Tonga. The ICJAO campaign seeks to clarify the obligations of states to protect the rights of current and future generations from the adverse effects of climate change. Core themes of the Advisory Opinion are climate justice, intergenerational equity, and human rights.
The campaign began in 2019 when 27 law students gathered in a University of the South Pacific class on environmental law and decided to write letters to their leaders requesting their support on an initiative that would take climate change and human rights to the World’s Highest Court.
- What are PISFCC’s biggest priorities?
There are two main priorities of the PISFCC:
Seek an advisory opinion on the obligations of states, under international law, towards current and future generations in protecting their rights from the adverse impacts of climate change.
Educate and activate Pacific youth to become more conscious and aware of the single greatest threat to their homes, lives and their future.
- How will PISFCC be participating in COP26?
PISFCC will be participating with a team of representatives from four Pacific Island countries in a bid to adequately represent the region.
Our responsibility to our delegation is to provide the ancillary support in the negotiations and other COP-related matters. By shadowing our senior and expert delegates, we aim to use this opportunity to build the capacity of our members on better understanding the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP processes to ensure we can build upon and hopefully represent our countries in the negotiations in the future.
On the ICJAO campaign, we will be working very closely with our colleagues from the global campaign, World’s Youth for Climate Justice, to organize three side events (2 Blue Zone events) and one at the University of Glasgow for law and governance day. At COP26, we will be working to build, consolidate, and expand the global youth movement on the ICJAO by developing networks and connections, developing collective global and regional campaign strategies. We are also eager to amplify the campaign widely through the use of strategic communications and media and emphasize the voices and demands of the youth from the Pacific.
- How can international allies best support your work, and the climate initiatives of Pacific communities?
The ICJAO campaign requires a global approach to see success. As such international allies can join the global campaign under the WYCJ and campaign in their respective countries and regions for leaders to support the ICJAO campaign. Developing and expanding connections are a vital part of this campaign.
Help build awareness on this campaign through the use of their media platforms and channels to get a wide audience to understand and know about this youth-led initiative. This will be a huge boost in building public support for the campaign that can move global leaders to support the campaign.
- What are the biggest challenges you and the organization face in this work?
Capacity building, upskilling, and resourcing remain the largest challenges that we face. As a purely youth-led and managed organization, both the PISFCC and the WYCJ need enhanced capacity and resources to be able to achieve its aims and goals.
- What inspires you in this work?
The reality of what we stand to lose is always jarring and perhaps is the most significant inspiration for our work.
As living experts to the climate crisis, we understand the consequences of inaction to our people and for the security and wellbeing of our future generation.
The belief that youth can effectively use the law as a vehicle to drive the transformational changes we need to catalyze solutions and responses that will and can address this geopolitical issue of climate change.
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!