MEKONG NEWS DIGEST: Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE)

MEKONG NEWS DIGEST: Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE)

To May 4, 2016

Curated by The Mekong Eye. A weekly update of news, commentary and resources on Mekong development projects, investment, EIAs and other development issues. We include a balanced and representative range of news and views from local, regional and global sources. The Digest reaches around 3500 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists.

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Statement by United Nations experts on the ECLAC’s negotiation of a regional instrument on environmental democracy

 

Spanish

22 October 2015

On the eve of a precedent-setting negotiation, we express our strong support for the efforts by governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to agree on a regional instrument on rights of access to information, participation, and justice in environmental matters.

This negotiation is one of the most important steps ever taken to protect and promote environmental democracy at the international level, and it will provide a model for such steps in other regions and countries.

Emerging from a proposal at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, the new agreement is being negotiated by 20 member States of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, representing more than 500 million people. The next negotiating session is October 27-29 in Panama Citya1.

The countries are discussing ways to implement Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration, which affirmed that “Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens,” that “each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities” and “the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes,” and that “Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.”

Principle 10 is universally acknowledged, and the obligations on States to provide access to information, participation, and remedy have strong bases in international human rights law as well, as is described in the 2014 mapping report of the then-Independent Expert on human rights and the environment, A/HRC/25/53.

Nevertheless, implementation of Principle 10 at the national and local level is often incomplete or ineffective. A robust, legally binding regional instrument would provide invaluable support for such implementation, including by protecting environmental human rights defenders, including indigenous activists and leaders and women human rights defenders, who are at high risk of harassment and even death in many countries.

Sustainable development and human rights are interrelated. Rights of access to information, participation, and justice are at the fulcrum of the relationship. When the people most affected by environment and development policies—including indigenous peoples, whose livelihoods and cultures often depend on access to their lands and resources, and women, who are often the primary caregivers in the family—can exercise their human rights to information, participation in decision-making, and remedy, then the policies are most responsive, fair and effective.

A strong regional instrument on access rights will further enhance robust domestic laws implementing multilateral environmental agreements and domestic policies in other areas, including climate change, chemicals and waste management, and biological diversity.

While most of the countries have expressed their intention to conclude a legally binding instrument, they have not yet adopted a formal decision on the question. We urge the negotiators to decide to adopt a treaty or other binding legal instrument, as the best way to promote the effective implementation of access rights and sustainable development and to ensure that the instrument strengthens capacities in public institutions and in civil society.

In addition, a legally binding instrument can provide legal tools to secure the effective enjoyment of access rights. An adequate legal framework is indispensable to give effect to access rights, and a treaty enables adoption and enforcement of adequate internal laws.

Moreover, a legally binding instrument can channel development and technical assistance to strengthen institutional capacities, by providing the structural mechanisms for North-South development assistance and South-South regional cooperation, including through a dedicated Secretariat. Such an instrument may also establish a mechanism to oversee compliance with the obligations established in the treaty, and thus to monitor and facilitate its implementation.

We also applaud the transparent negotiating process. Modalities for the participation of the public have included the ability of the public to speak at any moment of the discussions, subject to the Chair’s discretion. This arrangement is an international good practice regarding stakeholder engagement in inter-governmental processes. In addition, the process has contemplated a number of activities for capacity-building, lessons sharing, and education regarding sustainable development and access rights, including workshops jointly organized by governmental agencies and civil society.

This statement has been endorsed by the following UN Special Procedures:

Mr. John Knox, Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment;
Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes;
Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health;
Mr. Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation;
Ms. Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food;
Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
Mr. Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association;
Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders;
Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights;
Ms. Virginia Dandan, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity;
Mr. Alfred de Zayas, Independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order;
Mr. Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons;
Ms. Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living;
Ms. Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people;
Ms. Eleonora Zielinska, current Chair of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.

– See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16630&LangID=E#sthash.kiVHuWKA.dpuf

ASEAN ICHR Presentation on EIA in ASEAN

I attended the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights Workshop on Human Rights the Environment and Climate Change in Mandalay, Myanmar, on 26-27 September 2015. My presentation focussed on a regional assessment of EIA in ASEAN and proposed an ASEAN Framework Agreement on EIA as a way of promoting sustainable development within ASEAN member countries. Matthew Baird AICHR September 2015

ASEAN ICHR Worksop on Environment and Human Rights

Human Rights the Environment and Climate Change

The AICHR Workshop on the Implementation of Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Environment and Climate Change in Mandalay, Myanmar was a follow up from the Workshop on Human Rights, Environment and Climate Change conducted in September 2014. The workshop was organized and led by the Representative of Myanmar to the AICHR, H.E. U Kyaw Tint Swe, with the support of the Regional EU – ASEAN Dialogue Instrument and additional assistance from ASEAN US Progress. At the last workshop the AICHR was expected to play a key role in further integration of Human Rights Based Approach towards environmental policy making and protection.

The purpose of this year’s Workshop was to develop a deeper understanding on the human rights obligations relating to the environment in the ASEAN context and explore how a regional response may be initiated with the involvement of relevant stakeholders.

The workshop was conducted over a period of two days discussing topics revolving around the current state with regards to human rights obligations vis-à-vis the environment and climate change, environmental impact assessment tools for ASEAN, legal frameworks, the protection of women, children and other vulnerable groups, and a possible framework for ASEAN.

The Workshop was attended by distinguished speakers, relevant ASEAN bodies/ working groups on Environment, national human rights institutions, academia/think tanks, judiciary, civil society organisations and others. The first session of the Workshop was opened by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Mr John Knox. Mr Knox highlighted key aspects of human rights and the environment and the need to strike a balance between environmental protection and economic development. The session was also graced by Prof. Dr. Nay Htun, who was a former UN Assistant Secretary-General, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General for the UNDP.

The Workshop benefited from the exchange of views and experiences from expert speakers in the fields of human rights, the environment, and climate change from ASEAN and overseas, including Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn (former UN Special Rapporteur), Honorary Prof. Jaap Spier, Dr Matthew Baird, and Prof. Dinah Shelton.

Some of the topics that were highlighted included the gap between legalization and implementation/enforcement, the need to place a focus on the marginalized and vulnerable groups, and the necessity to have a fuller grasp of the expertise that ASEAN countries can share and contribute to a possible regional framework.

– See more at: http://aichr.org/press-release/press-release-aichr-workshop-on-the-implementation-of-human-rights-obligations-relating-to-the-environment-and-climate-change-26-27-september-2015-mandalay-myanmar/#sthash.Qu1FbazD.dpuf

Human Rights the Environment and Climate Change

Human Rights the Environment and Climate Change

PACT Mekong Partnership for the Environment Bangkok, August 2015

Presentation by Matthew Baird, Environmental Counsel Asia, at the Shared Solutions: Safeguarding Sustainable Development in the Mekong Region. A Symposium hosted by Thailand ONEP, PACT and the Mekong Partnership for the Environment, USAID, Sweden, and the Stockholm Environment Institute. The presentation was on EIA in the Mekong Region examining the developments in EIA in the five countries in the Mekong Region over the past 4 years.

Shared Solutions: Regional Symposium of Sustainable Development

Opening roundtable
Opening roundtable

Opening roundtable

Over 140 representatives from Government, NGO and the private sector gathered in Bangkok, Thailand to shared strategies and experiences on safeguarding sustainable development in the Mekong Region. The Symposium was hosted by PACT – Mekong Partnership on the Environment, Thailand’s Office of Natural Resources and Environment, USAID, Government of Sweden, and the Stockholm Environment Institute.

DR. Vinod Thomas, Director General of the Independent Evaluation at the Asian Development Bank, gave the keynote presentation on the Business Case for Social and Environmental Safeguards in Infrastructure Lending.

Matthew Baird, gave an opening presentation at the Plenary Session giving an overview of the significant developments in Environmental Impact Assessment in the Mekong Region. He highlighted some of the common themes and challenges in the region.

This was followed by a panel presentation from senior officials from EIA Units in the region. Each of these EIA Directors provided some interesting experiences on the challenges faced by government on EIA.

Lessons from India to protect cultural heritage

Presentation on Myanmar’s Environmental Governance

Baird EIA Presentation 5 June 2015

Impact Assessment and ASEAN Economic Community

IMG_0664

IMG_0664

I was fortunate to be invited to present at the Impact Assessment and the ASEAN Economic Community: A Way Forward for Regional Cooperation. This Regional Workshop was held in May 2015 in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Workshop was hosted by the Vietnam Environment Administration, AECEN and Pact with funding by USAID.

The Workshop examined the role of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) in promoting sustainable development in the Mekong Region and ASEAN.

My presentation was an overview of EIA in the Mekong Region with particular emphasis on public participation.

Vermont Law School EIA Clinic with MOECAF in Myanmar

IMG_0548

Vermont Law School has recommenced a program from 2014 working closely with the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Forestry of Myanmar.The program provides for a monthly clinic on EIA Assessment and Review with the Environment and Conservation Division of MOECAF. It is a great learning environment as the new EIA Procedures are about to enter into force. I also gave a presentation on Day 1 on a Regional Analysis of EIA Laws within the region. The after session included an overview on Public Participation in EIA in Myanmar and an examination of some of the potential issues that ECD will have to address once the EIA Procedures are approved. IMG_0548

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