The ball is in our court: Why the UN Children’s Rights Committee decision on climate change was the right one.Posted: 24 January, 2022
Author: Nimrod Muhumuza
LL.D. candidate, Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape
Author: Khatondi Soita Wepukhulu
Reporter, openDemocracy, Uganda
In a ground-breaking decision, the UN Children’s Rights Committee recently found that states are legally responsible for the harmful effects of emissions originating in their territory on children outside their borders. The fact that climate change is a global problem does not absolve individual states of their responsibility to reduce their share of emissions. Nonetheless, it found the authors’ complaint inadmissible for failure to exhaust local remedies. The decision was welcomed in some quarters and criticised in others.
The rules on exhaustion of local remedies within public international law and international human rights law are settled. The requirement serves as a manifestation of a state’s sovereignty – that states should be allowed to deal with a claim brought against it using the judicial and administrative mechanisms within their domestic legal order. In human rights law, exhaustion of local remedies is premised on the principle of subsidiarity. The primary avenues for remedying human rights violations are states’ judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative bodies. Only when these domestic avenues are ‘objectively’ considered unavailable, ineffective, unduly burdensome or only obtainable after inordinate delays can the complainants turn to international human rights mechanisms for recourse.