The ILA, a non-governmental scholarly association holding consultative status with a number of United Nations specialized agencies, has a membership of about 4600 international lawyers – including scholars, judges and arbitrators, legal counsels, diplomats and decision-makers – spread among 66 regional and national branches around the globe. An expert organization with over 150-year-long tradition since its founding in Brussels in 1873, the ILA has premises in London, but its biennial general conferences are hosted by ILA branches in various countries.

The ILA promotes the study, clarification and development of international law as its main constitutional objectives. Its work is organized through international committees and study groups convened to examine topical international legal issues. Among the current 20 international committees, the Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise brings together 46 prominent legal experts from 22 ILA regional and national branches.Committee at Athens. Photo: Archives of the Committee

The Committee has been chaired from its initiation in the autumn of 2012 to the completion of the work at the Athens Conference in June 2024 by FNI Research Professor Davor Vidas of the Norwegian ILA branch.

At the Athens Conference, the Committee presented its final (fourth) report, following up on the reports presented at several previous ILA Biennial Conferences: at 77th conference in Johannesburg in 2016; at 78th in Sydney in 2018; and at the 80th ILA Conference in Lisbon in 2022. At the Sydney Conference, the ILA also adopted two resolutions upon proposals of the Committee: ILA Resolutions 5/2018 and 6/2018.

At the Athens Conference, Vidas presented the final report as the Chair of the Committee, together with the Co-Rapporteur, Professor David Freestone (UK branch), Presentation of final report. Photo: Jessica Schechinger on Xand Professors Walter Kälin (Swiss branch), Patricia Galvão Teles (Portuguese branch), Clive Schofield (Australian branch) and Duygu Cicek (Headquarters branch).

Upon the proposal of the Committee, the ILA adopted on 28 June 2024 its Resolution 1/2024 on international law and sea level rise.

Vidas explains:

‘The proposed Resolution is based on the view of the Committee that all actions by low-lying Small Island Developing States (SDIS) affected by climate change-related sea level rise, other States, sub-regional, regional and international organizations, as well as the international community as a whole should be guided by the principles and objectives of legal certainty and stability, equity, and international cooperation when addressing the implications of climate change-related sea level rise for the statehood of affected States and the rights of their population.’


‘The Resolution in particular addresses the impacts of sea level rise on statehood and the rights of affected populations of low-lying SIDS under international law, but also the impacts on maritime zones and their limits, and on maritime boundaries, of all coastal States. In this regard, the Committee has proposed a contemporary interpretation of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and has recommended that States adopt to this effect a globally agreed instrument that can enable wide participation, such as an UN General Assembly resolution or whatever other format or forum might be agreed upon by States for this purpose’, Vidas adds.