The World Loses Climate and Nuclear Disarmament Champion Tony de Brum

News 22.08.2017

2015 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Tony de Brum. Photo: Wolfgang Schmidt


Former Foreign Minister of the Republic of the Marshall Islands Tony de Brum, a champion of climate action and nuclear disarmament, passed away on Tuesday morning, according to the Marshall Islands’ President’s office.

De Brum and the people of the Marshall Islands received the Right Livelihood Award in 2015 “in recognition of their vision and courage to take legal action against the nuclear powers for failing to honour their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”.

“A diplomat from a tiny Pacific nation, Tony de Brum has brought the world’s attention to two of the greatest global challenges of our time: climate change and nuclear disarmament. He was a trusted negotiator who built bridges among some of the most unlikely allies, and a person of exceptional integrity and conviction, which was the driving force behind his quest for justice and peace. He was a true global leader who will be sorely missed,” said the Right Livelihood Award Foundation’s Executive Director Ole von Uexkull.

As foreign minister, de Brum, 72, used his position to bring the issue of climate change before the United Nations and raise awareness about its impacts, particularly on small island states. He was a chief negotiator behind the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, with his catchphrase “1.5 to stay alive” – referring to the required 1.5C temperature rise limit – becoming a key part of the historic climate pact.

Having witnessed the devastating effects of the US nuclear tests in his country as a young boy, de Brum led an unprecedented legal effort of filing lawsuits against all nine nuclear weapons states in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2014, seeking to hold them to account for their failure to abide by the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law. Although in October 2016 the Court decided that it did not have the jurisdiction in three of these cases, the Marshall Islands showed remarkable courage and foresight in bringing these cases to the ICJ.

Tony de Brum passed away on his native atoll of Majuro in the presence of his family. He leaves behind his wife, three children, ten grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

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