13 – 15 September 2014, Yangon, Myanmar
In line with the implementation of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), particularly Article 28 (f), the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) organised the Workshop on Human Rights, Environment and Climate Change in Yangon, Myanmar on 13 to 15 September 2014. The activity is in line with two out of seven priorities outlined by President U Thein Sein under the ASEAN Chairmanship of Myanmar.
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 Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Workshop discussed the inter-linkages between environmental sustainability and its impact on the enjoyment of human rights of the ASEAN people. The workshop aimed to discuss the development of a regional strategy as to how to mainstream human rights based approach to environmental policymaking and protection.
The Opening Ceremony of the Workshop was graced by the presence and opening addresses from the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs, H. E. U Wunna Maung Lwin, and the Union Minister for the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, H. E. U Win Tun. Both Ministers emphasized the need for ASEAN as a region to take necessary measures to protect itself from the adverse effects of climate change and environmental degradation. It was envisioned that this workshop will pave a way to develop an ASEAN Network between human rights with the environment and human rights and climate change. There was also a call to develop a regional approach to Post – MDGS on sustainable development that will ensure future Sustainable Development Goals.
There were also remarks by H.E. Peter Lysholt Hansen, Ambassador of Denmark to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar as well as a video message from Prof. John Knox, the UN Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. A keynote address was presented by Prof. Dr. Nay Thun, who was a former UN Assistant Secretary-General, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General for the UNDP.
The Workshop invited expert speakers in the field of environment and or human rights from within the region, Europe and the Americas. There were also presentations and sharing of national experiences on the challenges and good practices on environmental protection by representatives from the various ASEAN Member States.
From the presentations the participants learned: that there is a clear connection between human rights and environmental sustainability/climate change; the importance of adopting a human rights based approach to environment policy making; the importance of sustainable and resilient development approach when considering ASEAN’s strategy; and the critical need to ensure mechanisms / tools to minimize impact and ensure participation of most vulnerable groups such as the use of Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) / Trans-boundary Impact Assessment / and Cumulative Assessment, as well as the establishment of new bodies at the national level specifically mandated to handle environmental matters. The Workshop also identified several gaps that will need to be addressed at the national level in order to be able to develop a workable regional framework.
The participants discussed the next step that needs to be taken and how to streamline human rights and environment into the other ASEAN Community pillars, taking into consideration the cross-cutting nature of both issues. A follow up activity may be explored in the future.