YANGON, 2 November 2017 – The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened its third workshop on human rights, environment and climate change on 29-30 October in Yangon, Myanmar. The discussions revolved around a rights-based approach to regional strategy management for an effective environmental impact assessment (EIA).
The workshop brought together participants from ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, including the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Environment and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, 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.
Participants discussed national and regional good practices and policies on EIA and the challenges in their implementation. Additionally, they shared the experience of transboundary EIA overseen by the Mekong River Commission, and good practice of strategic environmental assessment in Korea and by the Asian Development Bank for its projects.
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.”
As highlighted in the keynote speech video of Mr. John Knox, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, environmental harms interfere with the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights such as right to life, right to health and others. Therefore, he said it is critical that governments have effective legal framework to address environmental issues and take additional steps to protect those who are particularly vulnerable to environmental harm. The right to a safe, clean and sustainable development is enshrined under article 28(f) of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD).
The workshop noted that 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 was organised by AICHR Myanmar with the support of the ASEAN-Korea 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.