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.

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

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.

Impact Assessment and ASEAN Economic Community

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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.

Bangkok EIA Workshop Report now available online

The Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE) and Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network  (AECEN) in December 2014 gathered EIA practitioners from government and civil society to discuss EIA policy and practice as a tool for advancing sustainable development. Read about highlights and lessons learned in the project report. http://www.aecen.org/events/environmental-impact-assessment-policy-and-practice-mekong-region-safeguarding-sustainable-de

Stimson Centre/NREM Conference in Chiang Rai

Stimson Centre/NREM Workshop

The Stimson Centre partnered with Natural Resources and Environmental Management Centre at Mae Fah Leung University to a hold a workshop on Solutions to Equitable Hydropower Development Planning in the Lower Mekong Basin.

Matthew Baird, Environmental Counsel, presented a paper on the Legal Issues Surrounding the Mekong Main Stream Dams. This paper highlighted the increasing legal and financial risk for Mekong River hydro-power, including the Xayaburi Dam, as a consequence of the developments of environmental law in Thailand and also the development of EIA and Transboundary EIA in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and China.

Abstract of paper

The development of large-scale hydro-power faces many challenges. One of the significant legal risks is associated with the failure of the project proponent to undertake adequate assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the hydro-power project. Compliance with domestic Environmental Impact Assessment Regimes is, of course, a fundamental prerequisite for project approval and is also required by IFC in order to secure funding. However the consequences for the failure of a project to fully comply with EIA law is not so clear.

Recent decision in Thailand highlight a growing legal risk associated with the failure to comply with domestic legal obligations. Both the decision on the Stop-Global Warming Association against the 300 THB Billion Flood Mitigation Scheme in 2013 and the recent 2014 decision on the legal challenge to the Xayaburi Power Purchase Agreement has shown that failure to comply with domestic EIA laws can have significant legal and financial repercussions.

An analysis of these decisions leads to the overwhelming conclusion that the legal and financial risk for main-stream dams is increasing. The significance of that risk raises doubt as to the viability of future main-stream dams. One analysis of the current legal environment may also raise the question of lender-liability for environmental and social harm, whereby the banks and other financial institutions will be required to provide compensation for such harm.

In the context of the Mekong River Basin a further legal risk is the development of Transboundary EIA obligations. Under the present arrangements for the Mekong River Commission, there is a need for Prior Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement. The failure of host-countries to following these procedures can also increase the legal risk for proponents, construction companies and financial institutions.

 

 

Extra-territorial obligations Conference at Chulalongkorn University

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“Rights-based governance beyond borders” The role of extraterritorial obligations (ETOs). 

Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Co-organized by: the ETO Consortium; MA in International Development Studies (MAIDS) program, Chulalongkorn University; Focus on the Global South; the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development; and the Stockholm Environment Institute 

Background 

Human rights provide a powerful tool for environmentally sustainable development. Many States in South East Asia and elsewhere still interpret their human rights obligations as being applicable only within their own borders. The attempt to ignore extraterritorial obligations (ETOs) and to limit obligations territorially has led to gaps in human rights protection (and environmental protection) in various international political processes including: the lack of human rights regulation and accountability of transnational corporations (TNCs); the absence of human rights accountability of Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs), in particular international financial institutions (IFIs); failure to apply human rights law to investment and trade rules, policies and disputes; and the lack of implementation of the duties to protect and fulfill Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCRs) abroad.

These challenges were addressed in 2011 in the “Maastricht Principles on ETOs in the area of ESCRs” that summarized recent developments in international human rights treaty law. Strengthened ETOs will help to safeguard people’s rights in the region – including those of women, peasants, and indigenous communities who are often most at risk. ETOs also articulate clear standards for intergovernmental organizations, UN reform – and the international human rights framework more broadly. They are closely linked to issues on the borderline of environmental law and human rights. They help to redress the growing influence of corporations’ control over national and international governance mechanisms and to defend democratic international rule that respects, protects and fulfills economic, social and cultural human rights.

Presentation on Myanmar EIA Laws and Procedures to PEACE Law Academy

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I had the great pleasure of addressing the Peace Law Academy in Mae Sot, Thailand on 276 June 2014. The 40 students from all across Myanmar, are at the Peace Law Academy for a 12 month training program. This program covers many different aspects of legal training, including constitutional law, criminal law and also environmental law. It was a great honour to be able to spend some time with a great group of future leaders.

Leaders, royals work to stop illegal wildlife trade threatening elephants, rhinos

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
February 11, 2014 — Updated 1913 GMT (0313 HKT)

London (CNN) — The illegal wildlife trade takes the lives of 100 elephants a day, and rhino poaching increased by 5,000% between 2007 and 2012.

The six remaining subspecies of tiger are endangered, two of them critically. Three other tiger subspecies are already extinct.

Statistics like these are the reason it’s time to treat the effort to stop the illegal wildlife trade “like a battle, because it is precisely that,” says Britain’s Prince Charles.

He and his son, Prince William, are among the high-profile global guests due to take part in the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade on Thursday, hosted by the UK government.

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/11/world/europe/uk-illegal-wildlife-summit/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

 

edition.cnn.com/2014/02/11/world/europe/uk-illegal-wildlife-summit/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

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