[SIGN-ON] Civil Society Organizations Call for a Genuine and Robust ASEAN Environmental Rights Framework

April 30, 2024

We request your support in signing on to the statement below to call for strong action and engagement on environmental rights for the ASEAN region, particularly in the ongoing development of the ASEAN environmental rights framework :

https://tinyurl.com/CSOsforASEANEnvRights

 


Civil Society Organizations Call for a Genuine and Robust ASEAN Environmental Rights Framework

We, the undersigned civil society organizations and individuals, call for strong action and engagement on environmental rights for the ASEAN region, particularly in the ongoing development of the ASEAN environmental rights framework.

We in Southeast Asia have been facing significant environmental degradation and destruction that has worsened our vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The negative environmental and socioeconomic consequences have devastated the lives and ways of living of millions across the region. In addition, environmental and human rights defenders (EHRDs) in the region have been subjected to vicious attacks due to their work in protecting ecosystems and upholding the rights of communities. The urgency of the situation demands that both government and civil society do their part to respond to current environmental issues. 

The ongoing process to develop an ASEAN environmental rights framework presents a great opportunity for all to advance the status of environmental rights in the region. Since 2021, the  ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) has recognized the need for a regional instrument that promotes environmental rights and incorporates the narratives between human rights and environmental rights. In November 2022, the AICHR formed the ASEAN Environmental Rights Working Group (AER WG), which has since conducted meetings to develop this first-ever environmental rights instrument for the region. A draft declaration on environmental rights is currently available for stakeholder consultation until the end of April. This draft will be discussed in the upcoming AER WG meeting in May. Once finalized, it will be submitted to AICHR for further review and discussion with other ASEAN sectoral bodies, particularly the ASEAN Senior Officials on Environment. Finally, it will be reviewed and considered for adoption by the ASEAN Member States.

The consultations and initial discussions with civil society that have taken place in the past two months reveal that there is still much that needs to be done to build a meaningful and effective ASEAN environmental rights framework. We express our utmost concern over having a non-legally binding declaration, with many of the articles on substantive elements for effective environmental protection (ie. air pollution and emissions standards, conservation, marine debris, and plastic pollution, etc.) being shortened or cut. In addition, the term “indigenous people” has been omitted. Compounding this devolution of the document is the short window of time and the lack of support for public stakeholder consultations, which strips away the rights of those local communities and EHRDs who will be ultimately affected by this framework to advocate for it to truly respond to their needs. 

We invite civil society to follow the developments and engage in the process of the institutionalization of the ASEAN environmental rights framework. Genuine participation is important, especially of communities that are most affected by climate change and are at high risk of attacks. 

We call for the following necessary inclusions to be accommodated and ensured in the document, to truly strengthen and uphold environmental rights and human rights in the region:

  1. Safeguards on the issues of clean air and transboundary haze, pollution control and a non-toxic environment, climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience, healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, land degradation, desertification, and drought, water, oceans and marine environment, coastal zones are being comprehensively addressed in the document as a part of substantive elements;
  2. Protection for environmental defenders who defend and promote environmental rights from threats, attacks, intimidation, criminalization, and/or lawsuits against them;
  3. Enforcing environmental rights both from procedural and substantive aspects;
  4. Promoting Environmental Impact Assessment as a legal document that is transparent, accessible, and understandable for everyone, especially vulnerable and marginalized groups including but not limited to women, children, the elderly, indigenous people, local communities, LGBTIA+ communities etc.; and
  5. Recognition of the intersectionality between environmental rights, human rights, and protection for vulnerable and marginalized groups in every development process that will affect the environment.

We urge the Working Group and other ASEAN bodies to incorporate the voices of civil society, follow existing international human and environmental rights standards, and build a genuine and more robust framework that will uphold environmental rights in the region.

 

Signed by:

 

ASEAN Youth Forum

Asia Pacific Network of Environmental Defenders

Asian Research Institute for Environmental Law

Indonesian Center for Environmental Law

Youths United for Earth


SIGN-ON HERE: https://tinyurl.com/CSOsforASEANEnvRights