Macquarie University
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Human-nature: Can traditional customary law contribute to climate change adaptation? A South Pacific study

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posted on 2022-03-28, 16:20 authored by Kirsten Jane Davies
The voices, practices and knowledge of first peoples are increasingly being heard in response to the challenges presented by the impacts of climate change. These views tend to be siloed and not integrated into mainstream legal and management frameworks. The need to integrate their views on human-nature connections is based on the premise that first peoples and local communities have needed to constantly adapt throughout history to changing environments. Therefore, through their knowledge and laws, they may have much to contribute in terms of adapting to the changes imposed by global warming. This study travelled back to the origins of legal systems, to determine whether practices of traditional customary law might enhance contemporary adaptive approaches to the impacts of climate change. The South Pacific region, and specifically the Republic of Vanuatu, offered the critical attributes for this study. This region, while being one of the most vulnerable to climate change, has a deep history of adaptation. As customary practices diminish, the need to learn and consider how they may be applied, in contemporary contexts, gains urgency. This empirical and doctrinal study examined the potential contributions of traditional customary law and knowledge in rebuilding sustainable, coupled human - nature systems threatened by the impacts of climate change. The study found that this rebuilding process requires, guiding mechanisms to bridge the gaps between international law, principles, conventions, protocols, and their 'on-ground' application. Two such proposed tools, the Declaration on Human Rights and Climate Change and the namele mechanism, have been developed through this study. Both mechanisms integrate the practices and knowledge of first and local peoples, melding contemporary with traditional approaches to environmental management.


Table of Contents

I Introduction -- II Ancient and legal landscapes -- III Changing tides -- IV Human rights, custom and climate change -- V Voices of Vanuatu citizens -- VI Voices of legal academics -- VII The Namele mechanism -- VIII Conclusion IX Bibliography


Bibliography: pages 202-233 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Maquarie Law School

Department, Centre or School

Maquarie Law School

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Shawkat Alam

Additional Supervisor 1

Paul Martin


Copyright Kirsten Jane Davies 2019 Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xiii, 240 pages)

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