Guidelines on Public Participation in EIA in the Mekong Region

These Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regional EIA Guidelines Final have been collaboratively developed by the Regional Technical Working Group (RTWG) on EIA comprised of 25 government and non-government members from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

These regional EIA guidelines have been developed in response to the shared concern for increasing meaningful public participation in development planning, in the context of increasing investment projects across the Mekong region. Their purpose is to provide practical guidance for implementing meaningful public participation in the EIA process in the Mekong region, in order to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the EIA process, while reducing risks for projects as well as all stakeholders involved. The use of the guideline is envisioned to result in improved, sustainable, and more equitable development outcomes. The guidelines provide a regional “good practice” approach to public participation in EIA and are intended to complement national laws and policies where they already exist with additional “how to” detail. The intended users of these guidelines includes project proponents and EIA consultants, as well as government agencies, project affected people, non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs/CSOs), and others.

Formed in August 2015, the RTWG on EIA provides a model multi-stakeholder platform for regional collaboration to strengthen the policy and practice of EIA and to enhance cooperation for inclusive and sustainable development of the region. The RTWG on EIA is comprised of a diverse group of non-government/civil society and government representatives from 10 Ministries across the five lower Mekong countries. The group was supported by national technical advisors and other international technical experts.

EIA Consultants training in Yangon, Mayanmar

On 12 August 2016, Vermont Law School (VLS) and MCRB with the support from Heinrich-Böll Stiftung co-organised a training for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) consultants in Yangon with the objective:

–       To ensure that Myanmar EIA consultants understand how to implement the EIA Procedures, in particular requirements concerning consultation, participation, disclosure and risk mitigation and management;

–       To build greater understanding of the professional role of EIA consultants and discuss how the quality of EIA in Myanmar can be improved;

 

The training was opened by U Hla Maung Thein, (Director General of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Conservation, Environmental Conservation Department): ‘We have had over 100 reports, and some of them are good, but many are below average or very poor.  I want to encourage all workshop participants to strengthen their capacity to conduct EIAs and to digest the detail of the EIA Procedure including non-technical requirements regarding content, format, presentation of reports, and legal commitments by the project proponent and the consultant, as well as improving technical content’.

 

The training heard presentations from international environmental consultancies, legal experts and field researchers on the business ethics of EIA consultant profession, EIA consultant registration scheme in Myanmar, Risk Assessment in EIA/IEE, Public Participation in the EIA Procedure (you can see the training agenda here and the presentations here). About 60 EIA local consultants attended the training.

A one day follow up to the workshop is planned for October and it will focus on Consultant due diligence, Public Consultations, Mitigation Hierarchy and Environmental Management Plans. U Hla Maung Thein added: ‘Please pass the message to your clients that public participation is critical, and as important, even more so, than the environmental aspects of the EIA’.

Vermont Law School at the ECD, MOECAF in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar

Martin Cosier, Vermont Law School with ECD Myanmar.

Martin Cosier, Vermont Law School, and Matthew Baird, Environmental Counsel, attended the Environment and Conservation Department of the Myanmar Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation in Nay Pyi Taw in April 2016. This visit was part of an ongoing program to conduct a series of EIA Clinic with the staff of ECD. The EIA Clinic is funded by HBS Myanmar. This is the third year of the EIA Clinics. The aim of the program is to provide practical experience and training  in EIA assessment to ECD.

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.

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

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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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