The AICHR convened its third workshop on human rights, environment and climate change on 29-30 October 2017 in Yangon, Myanmar.
This year’s workshop’s discussions revolved around a rights-based approach to regional strategy management for an effective environmental impact assessment. In the opening session, Ambassador Hla Myint, the Representative of Myanmar to the AICHR remarked that “… there have been encouraging developments in this part of the world that reflect strengthened regional cooperation and collaboration in this regard. The Pacific countries and territories have been able to formulate the guidelines for strengthening EIA and similarly the six countries of Mekong Sub Region have been able to formulate regional guidelines for public participation in EIA. In view of these developments, the question is whether ASEAN does need such a regional framework for itself”.
The workshop brought together participants from ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, including the ASEAN Senior Officials Meetings on Environment (ASOEN) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), the representatives from ASEAN Member States ministries, civil society organisations and academics dealing with environmental related matters, as well as experts from various regional and international organisations. It saw not only the sharing of national and regional good practices and policies on EIA and the challenges in their implementation, but also the experience of transboundary EIA assessment as overseen by the Mekong River Commission, and good practice of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) in Korea and by the Asian Development Bank for its projects.
As highlighted in the keynote speech video of Mr. John Knox, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, environmental harms interferes with the full enjoyment of a very wide range of human rights, such as right to life, right to health and others, hence States have the obligation to have effective legal framework to address environmental issues and to take additional steps to protect those who are particularly vulnerable to environmental harm. The right to a safe, clean and sustainable development itself is enshrined under article 28(f) of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). All ASEAN Member States already have either laws/policies and/or EIA processes in place, and to make it an effective tool to promote and safeguard environment and human rights it should ensure that public participation, the right to information and access to justice/remedies are encompassed throughout the processes.
This workshop is organised by AICHR Myanmar with the support of the ASEAN-ROK Cooperation Fund. As with the two previous environment workshops organised in Myanmar, the Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, Dr Seree Nonthasoot, co-hosted and served as the rapporteur of the event.