International Unitarian Universalism

Protecting the Human Rights of Future Generations

Small tropical island with palm trees, with overlaying text: "#EndorseTheAO Pacific Leaders must take climate change and human rights to the World's Highest Court

Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change are campaigning for the International Criminal Court to issue an Advisory Opinion (AO) on the issue of climate change and human rights.

By Bruce Knotts

This post was originally sent out on June 20 via a monthly email message from Director Bruce Knotts of the Unitarian Universalist Association Office at the United Nations. Subscribe to the UU@UN email list

The Keynote speakers at this year’s Intergenerational Spring Seminar were the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change, a partner of UUSC. They told us of the unique Island nation of Vanuatu, which is sponsoring a United Nations General Assembly resolution that would engage the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion mandating that future generations have the human right a safe and sustainable planet. We invite you to view the Spring Seminar Keynote Address (YouTube) and to read the Guardian's article about the Vanuatu initiative at the United Nations.

Solomon Yeo, at 26, is the oldest of the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change. Recently he invited me and Rev. Daniel Lawlor (Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth) to dinner to discuss the UN General Assembly resolution and explore ways we can help. The major themes of the student initiative are to build a grassroots youth-led global movement to demand the human right to a safe and sustainable planet. This Vanuatu initiative is also very grounded in indigenous rights and the strong spiritual and material connection they have to the land.

I have already contacted the Parliament of the World's Religions, the NGO Committee on Human Rights, and Omnia (a human rights group) to support the students. We will be contacting congregations to help build a coalition. We hope to sponsor a virtual event in August that will feature Solomon Yeo and youth from the Spring Seminar to build awareness and support.

There is a PISFCC petition that you can sign and support at

The concept of generational obligations to protect the human rights of future generations is not new. Solomon provided us with two examples: The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines published a report documenting that climate change was adversely impacting human rights and that the top oil producers of the world knowingly contribute human rights violation. 

Another example comes from Right Livelihood Laureates: In the recent Stockholm 50+ event, esteemed Right Livelihood Laureates called out governments to do more on climate action. One of their messages was to:

Elevate the legal responsibility to protect planet earth and future generations: This includes adhering to the outcome of precedent cases such as Uganda v Netherlands and giving support to the initiative to take the issue of climate change to the International Court of Justice, in line with the recent recognition of the Right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a fundamental human right.

The UU@UN will continue to work with the UUMFE, the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change, and the Vanuatu Mission to the UN to build awareness and support for a successful outcome. Solomon plans to be in New York for six months to work with the Vanuatu Mission to the UN in getting the motion passed in the UN General Assembly during its next session. To let the United States know you want it to vote yes on this UN resolution, please sign the UUSC's petition.

About the Author

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts is the Director of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations. He was born and raised in Southern California. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Pepperdine University and his Master’s Degree in International Education from the Monterey Institute of...


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