The 1st ASEAN Environmental Rights Working Group Meeting
The ASEAN Environmental Rights Working Group (AER WG) convened the 1st Meeting on 21-22 August 2023 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Meeting was chaired by H.E. Prof. Dr. Amara Pongsapich, Representative of Thailand to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), and was attended by members of the AER WG, including representatives from AICHR, ASEAN Senior Officials on Environment (ASOEN), ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Youth Forum, ASEAN Disability Forum, and regional and international qualified experts on human rights and environmental laws. The AICHR established the AER WG with the purpose of developing a regional framework on environmental rights for further consideration by ASEAN Sectoral Bodies before eventual adoption by leaders of ASEAN.
The Meeting was updated on the follow-up actions from the Interim Working Group Meeting held on 22-23 November 2022. The secretariat of the working group presented a background study on progress and gaps in the implementation of relevant environmental and human rights agreements applicable to ASEAN, a stakeholder’s engagement strategy and a proposed overview of the AER Framework.
The Meeting discussed and agreed on the timeline and goals of the working group with a focus on developing a comprehensive framework in line with the international norms and standards on the rights to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The working group also deliberated on the consultation with all stakeholders, while AICHR would further lead consultation within ASEAN to ensure the final regional framework is agreeable to all AMS.
The Meeting also noted outputs from preliminary consultations conducted by various bodies prior to the 1st working group meeting and deliberated on a mechanism for information sharing, to facilitate the exchange of information on environmental rights in ASEAN, and to collect inputs to the AER Framework. It was agreed at the meeting that meaningful and inclusive engagement with all stakeholder groups was necessary.
On the substantive elements of the framework, the meeting discussed a proposed set of elements for the design of the regional instrument. Members of the working group exchanged views in response to the draft paper presented, which identified best practices in terms of environmental rights, taking into consideration multilateral environmental agreements and human rights treaties, including the procedural and substantive elements of environmental rights. The 2nd Meeting of the working group will be held in November 2023 with the aim of further developing the draft of the AER Framework.
The Meeting expressed its appreciation for the technical support and collaboration with the UN agencies, including UNESCAP, UNEP, and OHCHR and development partners, including ARIEL, SIDA, and USAID-WWF.