Gibraltar has been a British Overseas Territory since 1713, when Spain, under the Treaty of Utrecht, ceded it to Britain in perpetuity. The territory is just 2.6 square miles in size, and its population is estimated to be around 30,000. Gibraltar applied for full UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) membership and was accepted by the UEFA Congress in May 2013. Therefore, the Gibraltar “national” team will be able to compete in the UEFA European Championship beginning with the 2016 edition of the tournament.

The political situation of Gibraltar has been in dispute for decades. Spain argues that presently Gibraltar is much bigger than it was in 1713, and that in fact, part of its airport as well as housing on the west side of the island are built on reclaimed land. Spain asserts that the cession in the Treaty of Utrecht 1713 does not include the isthmus with the airport on it and the territorial waters, as the Treaty makes no mention about reclaimed land or territorial waters.

Gibraltar demands its right of self-determination pursuant to the universally recognized principle of international law, but Spain cites the UN principle of territorial integrity, through UN Resolution 1514 (XV), which says “any attempt at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” Under the UN Principles of Decolonization, territorial integrity takes precedence over Gibraltar’s right to self-determination. So, Spain argues that Spanish integrity takes precedence over Gibraltar’s right to be independent.

The UK notes that Gibraltar was ceded by Spain in the Treaty of Utrecht 1713, giving “the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications, and forts there unto belonging… forever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever.” It cites longevity of occupation, and argues that the UN principle of territorial integrity, as per UN Resolution 1514 (XV) does not override the principle of self-determination. The same resolution says: “All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status.”

There was a referendum in Gibraltar in 1967, which called on both Spain and the UK to take into account the “interests” of the people of Gibraltar. In the referendum, 12,138 of the 12,237 voters chose “voluntarily to retain their links with the UK.” The referendum was condemned by the UN General Assembly, and not recognized by any international body or state. In 2002 after diplomatic talks between the UK and Spain, a sovereignty referendum was held. Voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to share sovereignty over Gibraltar between the UK and Spain. People from Gibraltar believe the right of self-determination was given to it by the UK in 1960, and that the UN Charter enshrines the right to self-determination of all colonial peoples.

The UN does not recognize Gibraltar as an independent state or its right to self-determination because, among other things, the population of Gibraltar is a community artificially created from heterogeneous origins since 1713 by “colonial processes” rather than indigenous, and therefore thought it might not fulfill the criteria for any form of nationhood that could be interpreted as giving a right to UN “national” self-determination principles.

A large part of the reason for the conflict between Gibraltar and Spain is about money. Spain has accused Gibraltar of being a corporate tax haven, allowing companies and wealthy individuals to avoid paying millions. Spain also believes the border is being abused and draining Spanish resources. Smuggling – cigarette smuggling in particular – and also alleged circumventing of Spanish residency taxes are claimed to be two of the major trans-border issues. Fishing rights are another point of contention, with both sides complaining about incursions by the other into their territorial waters.

The most recent confrontation between the Spanish and the British authorities in Gibraltar happened in 2013, when the police and naval vessels created a maritime cordon around the Gibraltar tug Eliott and the barge MHB Dole as dozens of purpose-built concrete blocks were dumped into the sea. The Gibraltar Government said the reef would encourage marine life and help regenerate the seabed. However, in marking the boundary of British Gibraltar territorial waters in that area, the line of cement blocks also prevents Spanish fishermen from raking the seabed for conch in breach of Gibraltar laws.

Gibraltar is another example of a population demanding its right to self-determination, and although the UN has clear rules based on international law as to what elements must be met for a people to become independent, conflicts around the world based on the right to self-determination are still prevalent (e.g. Catalonia, Northern Cyprus, Kurdistan, the Basque Country, etc.). When considering the competing claims of Gibraltar and Spain both governments have good arguments for their position, and it does not look that the conflict between Spain and Gibraltar will be resolved any time soon.

But at least the Gibraltar national team will be eligible to play in the Euro 2016 football championships. Gibraltar will play against Germany, Scotland, Poland, the Republic of Ireland and Georgia in Group D of the qualifying rounds. The blind draw had originally put Gibraltar in Group C alongside Spain but the UEFA Executive Committee had decided earlier that Gibraltar could not meet Spain, too much political tension I suppose….



Rising levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere have warmed the Earth with wide-ranging impact. In his State of the Union speech earlier this week, President Obama said the debate over climate change was settled. “Climate change is a fact.” “The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way,” he said.

Last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged political, economic and financial leaders to intensify their efforts to move towards a low-carbon economy in preparation for the Climate Summit in September 2014 in New York. Climate change was a major focus of the annual Forum in Davos, which dedicated one entire day and more than 20 events to the topic of climate change and energy policy.

What is Climate Change?

Climate change refers to the effects resulting in the climate from global warming. Wallace Broecker, a geochemist, coined the phrase “global warming” in 1975. Global warming refers to the increase of the average global surface temperature caused by human greenhouse gas emissions. A greenhouse gas absorbs energy from the sun and re-emits it in all directions, including down to Earth. An increase in greenhouse gases results in the temperature of the Earth rising, which in turn, causes numerous changes in the Earth’s climate. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that occurs naturally and is also emitted by the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

The concern regarding climate change began in the 19th century, when scientific evidence first began to suggest that accumulated carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere could create a greenhouse effect and increase the temperature of the planet. By the middle of the 20th century, it was becoming clear that human action had significantly increased the production of carbon dioxide, and the process of global warming was accelerating. The level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere presently is higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years.

Most of the hottest years on record have occurred during the past two decades. According to NASA scientists, 2013 tied with 2009 and 2006 as the seventh warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 2000. Today, most scientists agree that either we stop and reverse this process now or face a devastating cascade of natural disasters that will seriously alter life on Earth.

Consequences of Climate Change

Because so many systems are tied to climate, a change in climate can affect many related aspects of where and how people, plants and animals live, such as food production, and availability and use of water. The consequences of global warming include rising sea levels; extreme heat events, melting snow and ice; fires and drought; and extreme storms, rainfall and floods. In Europe, the heat wave in the summer of 2003 resulted in over 30,000 deaths.  In India, temperatures reached 48.1 degrees Centigrade, which is nearly 119 degrees Fahrenheit. Two years later, the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina in the United States was attributed in large part to the elevated water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2008, in one of many topographic changing developments, 160 square miles of territory broke away from the Antarctic coast after its bindings to Antarctica had melted away.

According to a recent draft United Nations report, a delay in reducing the emission of carbon to the atmosphere would force future generations to develop the ability to somehow remove greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and store them underground to preserve the livability of the planet. The most evident problem is that it is still not clear whether such technologies will ever exist at the necessary scale, and even if they do, the cost of the reparations might be prohibitive. The new warnings came in a draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations panel of climate experts that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts to analyze and communicate the risks of climate change.

UN Initiatives on Climate Change

In 1992, the “Earth Summit” produced the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a first step in tackling the problem of climate change. The Convention’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol, set carbon emission reduction targets for industrialized countries, and helped stabilize and in some cases reduce, emissions in several countries.

In 1998, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide an objective source of scientific information and to study the issue of climate change in depth. In December 2010, climate change talks in Cancún concluded with a package of decisions to help countries advance towards a low-emissions future. The “Cancún Agreements,” include formalizing mitigation pledges and ensuring increased accountability for them, as well as taking concrete action to protect the world’s forests.

In 2011 the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, produced the Durban Platform. In Durban, governments decided to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible, but not later than 2015. In December 2012, after two weeks of negotiations at the Doha conference, nations agreed to a new commitment period for the Kyoto protocol and affirmed a previous decision to adopt a new global climate pact by 2015.

The recent draft UN report states that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is increasing. It predicts that another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, and states that governments of the world are still spending far more money to subsidize fossil fuels than to accelerate the shift to cleaner energy, thus encouraging continued investment in projects like coal-burning power plants that pose a long-term climate risk.

Political Response by Individual Nations to Climate Change

Political willingness to tackle climate change is growing in many countries and new policies are spreading, however, currently there is still a considerably larger growth in the production of fossil fuels. Emissions appear to have fallen in recent years in some of the wealthiest countries but the growth of international trade allows manufacturers to produce abroad goods that are consumed in wealthy countries. These countries outsource their greenhouse gas emissions to countries like China.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was meant to have nations commit to limit emissions, has not been as successful as intended because some important countries like the United States refused to ratify it or later withdrew, and also because of flaws within the treaty itself, such as the fact that the treaty exempted developing countries from taking strong action, a decision that many experts think was a mistake.

Nations have agreed to try to limit the warming of the planet to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. This target is not ideal, an according to experts, would still mean future ecological and economic damage, but the hope is that it would come on slowly enough to be somewhat manageable. What is clear is that the risk of doing nothing with regards to climate change will risk serious disruption to all living things on Earth and will cause catastrophic events to occur that will pose significant risks to human health, agriculture, freshwater supplies, coastlines, and other natural resources that are vital to the economy, the environment, and our quality of life. What is not clear at all is how to reach a solution that avoids further endangering the Earth.

How can we address the issue of Global Warming?

Is it necessary to implement more strict policies on nations regarding carbon emissions?

Is the UN effective in addressing the concerns about climate change?

Should the United States and China, as the nations that produce the largest amount of carbon emissions, be required by the international community to formulate a plan to reduce their emissions?

In a recent session on climate, growth and development, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that progress on addressing climate change will involve not just governments but also the full engagement of the business and finance communities. Do businesses have a social responsibility to help in the reduction of carbon emissions and prevent the future dangers that climate change pose to society?




Forecasters warned even before Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines that it might be the strongest storm in recorded history. It was 3.5 times more ferocious than Hurricane Katrina — and large enough to stretch from California to New York. The super typhoon made landfall in the eastern Philippines on November 8, 2013. With almost 10 million people affected, it is estimated that over 10,000 people have been killed, and nearly 700,000 displaced persons are taking refuge in some 1, 316 evacuation centers in 9 regions. Approximately, another 260,000 displaced persons are living outside these centers.

On December 26, 2004, an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale triggered a powerful tsunami across the Indian Ocean. The tsunami struck northern Sumatra; the west coasts of Thailand, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka; the east coast of India; the Maldives; and northern Africa. The tsunami resulted in the deaths of approximately 240,000 people and displacement of more than one million people.

On October 8, 2005, another earthquake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, struck Northern Pakistan, triggering landslides and hundreds of continuous aftershocks. The earthquake killed approximately 86,000 people, including more than 17,000 children; injured over 100,000 people; and caused destruction to infrastructure and housing, leaving an estimated 500,000 families homeless.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina killed 1,833 people and caused property damage estimated at $81 billion. Although Hurricane Katrina’s physical impact was confined within U.S. borders, its aftermath attracted global concern because the United States needed and accepted disaster assistance from the international community of States.

Natural disasters resulting from natural phenomena, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and famines, are a worldwide concern. They have affected nearly two hundred million people per year over the past two decades causing billions of dollars in property damage worldwide. Natural disasters know no geographical boundaries, no country, no region and no politics. They appear to be increasing in number and intensity, and people all over the world have endured their devastating consequences, such as loss of life and livelihoods, damaged infrastructure, and economic costs.

Natural disasters have demonstrated the vital role of the international community in facilitating humanitarian assistance to affected States. However, since there are no international legal obligations on States regarding disaster relief, it could potentially follow that individual Nation-States do not have any legal responsibilities concerning humanitarian assistance for natural disasters.

The lack of international legal obligations pertaining to disaster response is troubling, particularly when international aid agencies are overstretched in responding to crises. In a situation report released on Monday, November 11, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the capacity and resources of some agencies are “overstretched” as they are currently responding to two other humanitarian crises in the Philippines: the Central Visayas earthquake and the siege in Zamboanga City.

These past natural disasters have demonstrated the concern among all States for the responsibility to warn about the potential disaster, to react to the devastation, and to rebuild destroyed communities. Given the lack of international legal instruments setting forth the obligations of States regarding natural disasters some would argue that these “obligations” are rooted in customary international law.

In order for something to be considered customary international law, there must be general agreement among States to be bound to the responsibility to act in time of crises. While the international community has generally demonstrated an interest to be bound to the responsibility to provide humanitarian aid, this interest may not rise to the level of a legal duty since state practice of the responsibility to protect victims of natural disasters is likely insufficient and not widespread enough under customary international law standards. Thus, justifying the responsibility to provide assistance under customary international law may be difficult to argue.

Grounding the Nation States’ obligations in this regard on human rights might be more appropriate. Acknowledging the applicability of human rights norms to natural disaster victims would expand the scope of international human rights and reinforce the regime of international human rights law. Recognizing and codifying the relationship between human rights and the difficulties faced by disaster victims would impose on all States a legal responsibility to act in crisis arising from natural disasters.

However, implementing an international human rights instrument for natural disaster victims requires some sort of legal framework detailing its implications. It would also require that such legal framework defines and clarifies the States’ obligations. In effect, the human right in question would be related to the right to shelter, food, life, and health care as they arise in a time of crisis due to natural devastation.

Natural disasters affect the international community regardless of the geographical location where the disaster takes place. Although the international community relies on the individual State’s willingness to help, as well as on UN agencies and other NGO’s to react in time of crises, some argue that the aftermath of recent catastrophic natural disasters demonstrate the need for an international treaty clarifying the responsibilities of all States regarding natural disasters.

The important questions to consider are as follows:

Does the international community of States have a responsibility to provide humanitarian assistance to disaster-affected States?

Should the United Nations be involved in creating legal obligations for States regarding humanitarian aid?

Should these legal obligations be grounded in international human rights law?