Appellant in Barbuda Runway Challenge delivers statement at 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States Civil Society Forum

Thursday 30 May 2024

Share This Page

Email This Page

Mr. John Mussington, of the Stronger Caribbean Together (SCT) Network and Barbuda Land Rights & Resources Committee, delivered a statement at the 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States Civil Society Forum.

Mr Mussington is an Appellant in the Privy Council case, concerning a challenge to the development of a runway on the island of Barbuda. In February 2024, the Privy Council held that the islanders have standing to challenge the construction of this runway.

His statement is as follows:

The Stronger Caribbean Together (SCT) Network, is composed of regional grassroots movements, indigenous, feminist, youth, environmental and legal advocacy NGOs, plus academics and partners from within and outside the region. We came together to organize and resist the multiple and interconnected challenges people and ecosystems are exposed to all across SIDS.

From Barbuda to San Andres and Providencia, Grenada, Haiti and beyond, our members live the reality of multidimensional vulnerabilities and intersectional violence. We are witnesses to the fact that our situation is worsening because of catastrophic climate change, policies that increase social inequities, and historical injustices that have never been addressed. Our conditions are not inevitable nor natural, but the consequence of actions and inactions by governments, international partners and the private sector, and we organize and mobilize for their redressal.  

In particular, communities, territories and ecosystems across the region continue to be assailed by the impact of disaster capitalism, where state, private investors and creditors are profiting from catastrophic events and the economic fragility of our countries to reap unjust rewards on the back of a politics of dispossession, enclosure and marginalization. This is happening right under our noses, here in Barbuda, since Hurricane Irma in 2017. The ABAS Renewed Declaration for Resilient Prosperity, offers a stillborn hope as long as disaster capitalism is the playbook of local and international elites.

The SCT network wants to create a space of analysis and action against this problem, animated by the aspirations of climate, food, land and reparatory justice as pillars of a transformative agenda rooted in the right to self-determination and other fundamental rights of local communities and their territories.

Through support from the Open Society Foundations, we have created a virtual space of dialogue and knowledge exchange to empower and equip organizations to challenge local disaster capitalism projects and policies. This regional and international exchange of ideas not only unifies the region but allows locals in the region to identify political, economic and historical patterns that are often construed as exceptions and seldom understood in their systemic nature. With this project we are filling 3 gaps, namely: 1. The lack of a regional network and of an opportunity to reflect on the root causes of our challenges; 2. The lack of an accessible digital space for knowledge and information sharing and 3. The limited access to legal advocacy and training.

In fact, in the case of Barbuda, with the support of Garden Court Chambers and the Global Legal Action Network, a historical legal precedent was set, with the Privy Council ruling in 2024 in favour of two ordinary citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, giving them standing in the local courts to challenge the breach of their right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. We hope that thanks to the Escazu Agreement and the recently adopted Action Plan on Human Rights Defenders in Environmental Matters, our precedent will become the norm across the entirety of the Caribbean.  

The determination of Caribbean people standing stronger together is helping to preserve Barbuda’s cultural heritage and way of life but also serves as a beacon of hope for other indigenous and land defence cases, facing similar threats of exploitation, displacement, environmental disruption and pollution of water resources.

Watch Mr. John Mussington deliver his statement here on United Nations Web TV (at 59 minutes in).

Marc Willers KCLeslie Thomas KCStephen Cottle and Thalia Maragh, of the Garden Court Chambers Environmental Law and Climate Justice Team, represent John Mussington and Jacklyn Frank pro bono, instructed by Theo Solley of Sheridans. Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) are supporting the case.

The legal team also includes Adam Riley of 3 Hare Court, and they have been assisted by Claudia Neale, Garden Court Chambers’ Legal Researcher, and David Watkinson, Associate Member and former Head of Garden Court Chambers.

Leslie Thomas KC and Thalia Maragh spoke at Stronger Caribbean Together Network and GLAN's know your rights workshop on 30th April, sharing valuable tips to grassroots communities from 10 different islands in the Caribbean.

Find out more about how you can support the people of Barbuda to protect their island here

Related News

Related Areas of Law

We are top ranked by independent legal directories and consistently win awards.

+ View more awards