Civil Society Consultation on the ASEAN Environmental Rights Consultation Document

March 20, 2024

The Asia Pacific Network on Environmental Defenders (APNED) will be holding a civil society consultation on the consultation document on the ASEAN environmental rights on March 22, 2024 at 1:00PM-4:00PM (Philippines/Singapore time) via Zoom (Register HERE). It is an effort of APNED as a platform of environmental human rights defenders to ensure civil society participation in the process of the development of a document on environmental rights.

Civil Society Consultation on the on the ASEAN on Environmental Rights Consultation Document An initial consultation led by the Asia Pacifi Network of Environmental Defenders Section with details of the event. March 22 | Friday | Zoom 1:00-4:00PM (Manila/Singapore) / 12:00-3:00PM (Bangkok/Jakarta) Register at tinyurl.com/ASEANEnviRightsConsultation

This consultation is for civil society which aims to:

  1. Raise awareness on the ongoing development of the ASEAN environmental rights framework,
  2. Identify gaps to address challenges faced by environmental human rights defenders,
  3. Ensure the inclusion of civil society insights on the consultation document by gathering recommendations on the provisions included and not included in the document, and
  4.  Identify ways forward beyond the consultation document.

The inputs from the consultation will be compiled and submitted to the working group involved in the drafting of the document for consideration.

This civil society consultation is meant to be one session in a series of consultations which we hope fellow environmental defenders could work together and conduct  to ensure meaningful participation in the process. This consultation, in particular, will focus on the provisions related to the protection of environmental defenders as one of the most pressing issues raised in previous discussions with defenders.

The consultation document can be found in this LINK. The registration form can be found in this LINK, and you may access the concept note and program through this LINK.

Written recommendations are also welcome and can be submitted through this LINK.

Context

The ASEAN environmental rights working group (AER working group) was established in 2022 with the Modalities of Operations adopted by the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) on November 21 2022. The Terms of Reference was also approved and included the following:

The purposes of the AER working group are:

  1.  To develop a regional framework on environmental rights which will be submitted to AICHR for further discussion. AICHR will consult ASEAN Sectoral Bodies relevant to environment, in particular the ASEAN Senior Officials on Environment (ASOEN) for consideration before eventual adoption by leaders of ASEAN.
  2. To collaborate and consult with other bodies within and outside the ASEAN, including civil societies organisations, relevant UN agencies and thematic experts in the region, as may be appropriate. Specifically, the AER Working Group will seek to:

a.  Facilitate the exchange of information on environmental rights in ASEAN for consideration in the draft framework;

b.   Identify issues and challenges from emerging areas of environmental rights that require particular consideration in the ASEAN context;

c.  Prepare recommendations for and content of the draft framework; based on the outputs from relevant meetings and workshops;

d.  Support the undertaking of capacity-building, awareness-raising, and outreach on environmental rights with partners;

e.   Provide strategic guidance to the development of the framework on environmental rights, in consideration of the need to ensure alignment of the framework with other regional ASEAN commitments and national circumstances;

f.  Work with key stakeholders, sectoral bodies and partners on the delivery of the above; and

g.  Support the development of guidelines for implementation of the adopted framework.

Composition:

The AER working group is composed of individuals from senior experts on human rights and the environment, preferable with law backgrounds, lived experience and/or who have experience in negotiation and drafting of regional or international legal documents, among others.

Timeframe:

The AER working group shall have at least four separate meetings between its inception until December 2024.

Inputs from stakeholders:

The AER Working Group may seek written contributions from relevant stakeholders for inputs on drafts, if necessary.

Press releases of previous AER working group meetings:

  • Preparatory meeting for the development of AER framework: LINK
  • First AER working group meeting: LINK
  • Second AER working group meeting: LINK
  • Third AER working group meeting: LINK

The Need for Additional Protection for Environmental Defenders

Environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) are defined by the United Nations (UN) as “individuals and groups who, in their personal or professional capacity and in a peaceful manner, strive to protect and promote human rights relating to the environment, including water, air, land, flora and fauna”. Environmental defenders worldwide remain highly vulnerable to attacks due to their work.

From 2012 to 2021, Global Witness has recorded 318 killings of land and environmental defenders in Southeast Asia which is 18% of the total number globally. The Philippines is consistently ranked first in Asia in terms of the number of killings in the past decade. There are also many reported other types of attacks on EHRDs including arbitrary arrests and detention, physical violence, enforced disappearances, and defamation among others.

However, out of the 48 countries in Asia, only Mongolia has a law specifically for the protection of human rights defenders. In the Philippines, policy proposals such as the Human Rights Defenders Bill and the Environmental Defense have been passed but have not yet been legislated. There is also no regional agreement or framework similar to this in Asia and the Pacific.

In other parts of the world, there are already legal instruments that seek to uphold environmental rights and the rights of EHRDs such as the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters or the Aarhus Convention in Europe, and the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean or the Escazu Agreement.