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.

Environmental Impact Assessment in the Mekong Region (First Edition)

The First Edition of EIA in the Mekong Manual containing materials and commentary is available now at the link.

Draft Environment and Natural Resources Code of Cambodia finalised

After six drafts and almost 18 months of work, involving national and international experts the Draft Environment and Natural Resources Code of Cambodia has been finalised. The draft has been prepared by Vishnu Law Group with six Sub-Technical Working Groups under the overall leadership of a joint-Vishnu Law Group and Ministry of Environment Technical Working Group.

The Draft Environment and Natural Resources Code covers a range of environmental and natural resources areas including: General Principles of the Environment and Natural Resources Code, Public Participation and Access to Information, Environmental Impact Assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment, Pollution and Waste Management, Biodiversity and Endangered Species Protection, Cultural Heritage Protection, and significant provisions for dispute resolution procedures – including mediation, civil and criminal enforcement. The Draft Code also establishes a new conservation regime for Cambodia, setting up Biodiversity Conservation Corridors and a collaborative management process. The Biodiversity Conservation Corridors expand Cambodia’s existing protected areas to provide linkages and protection for high-conservation areas.

The Draft Code also has specific provisions covering Climate Change, Sustainable Production and Consumption, Fisheries, Water, Forests, Extractive Industries, Energy, Coastal Zone Protection, Environmental Education, and Sustainable Cities.

It is due to be considered by the Government of Cambodia and submitted to the National Assembly for consideration in March 2017.

The Final Draft is available for download enr-code-draft-7-final-31-dec-16

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’.

Matthew Baird presentation on ASEAN EIA at IAIA 2016

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M Baird ASEAN EAI IAIA Nagoya May 2016

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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 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

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

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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.

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