I. Introduction

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration by the five original Member Countries namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined the Association on 8 January 1984. Viet Nam became the seventh member or ASEAN on 28 July 1995. Lao P.D.R and Myanmar were admitted into ASEAN on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999.

The Bangkok Declaration united the ASEAN Member Countries in a joint effort to promote economic cooperation and improve the welfare of the people in the region. The Declaration sets out guidelines for ASEAN activities and defined the aims of the organization.

II. Organizational Structure for ASEAN Cooperation on the Environment

The organizational structure for ASEAN cooperation in the field of the environment consists of the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN), and its subsidiary bodies, the Meeting of the ASEAN Environment Ministers and the ASEAN Secretariat.

2.1. ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN)

ASEAN cooperation on the environment started in 1978 with the establishment of the ASEAN Experts Group on the Environment (AEGE) under the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (COST). AEGE was elevated in 1989 to become the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN). ASOEN meets once a year to consider the reports of its working groups, which also meet annually, and provide operational policy guidance on the various environmental programmes being pursued.

The cooperative programs and projects of ASOEN are carried out with the assistance of currently three working groups and these are the working groups on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity chaired by the Philippines, Coastal and Marine Environment chaired by Thailand and Multilateral Environmental Agreements chaired by Malaysia. In addition to the above-mentioned working groups, a Haze Technical Task Force, chaired by Indonesia, was also established to operationalize and implement the measures recommended in the ASEAN Cooperation Plan on Transboundary Pollution relating to atmospheric pollution which has now evolved into the Regional Haze Action Plan.

2.2. Meeting of the ASEAN Environment Ministers

To promote ASEAN cooperation and ensure that the decisions of the Heads of Governments relating to environment are carried out, the ASEAN Ministers for the Environment have met regularly at least once every 3 years since 1981. So far, the ASEAN Environment Ministers have met seven times. In between the normal 3-year intervals for the formal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment (AMME), informal meetings of the ASEAN Environment Ministers have been held almost every year since 1994. In addition, the first ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Haze (AMMH) was convened in Singapore on 22-23 December 1997 to address the problem of smoke haze in the region caused by land and forest fires. The AMMH has already met seven times.

2.3. The ASEAN Secretariat

Issues pertaining to environment cooperation in ASEAN fall under the purview of the Environment Unit of the Economic and Functional Cooperation Bureau. The ASEAN Secretariat normally services the afore-mentioned working groups, senior officials and ministerial meetings as resource person and rapporteur as well as assists the above-stated bodies by providing substantive inputs in the planning, coordination, implementation and monitoring of various cooperative projects on environment undertaken by them.

The current organizational structure for ASEAN cooperation on the environment and transboundary haze are shown as Figures 1 and 2, respectively.


III. ASEAN’s Early Initiatives in Environmental Education

The ASEAN Sub-Regional Environment Programme (ASEP I) was initiated in 1977 through the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In the formulation of the proposed ASEP, UNEP undertook a study to identify the existing projects by the then five ASEAN Member Countries. The identification was meant to give necessary perspectives and help the countries identify the gaps in their environment fields. The proposed ASEP therefore complemented national activities. ASEP I was endorsed by the First ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment (AMME) held on 30 April 1981.

The ASEAN Experts on the Environment (AEGE) was established in 1978 to oversee the environmental cooperation in the region. The First Meeting of AEGE, held in Jakarta on 18-20 December 1978 made the following recommendations on environmental education:

  1. That existing agencies in the region such as RECSAM, BIOTROP and other national institutions should look into the environmental teaching methodology more specifically and also have more active training programmes along this line in the region.
  2. That UNEP/UNESCO should sponsor an inventory of the available research and educational establishments specifically dealing with environment in the ASEAN Region and, as a follow up, sponsor a workshop of educationalists and environmentalists of the ASEAN region, to draw up a programme for cooperation between the ASEAN countries to exchange information personnel and graduate students to do research work among ASEAN Member Countries (AMCs).
  3. That UNEP/UNESCO convene a workshop to identify and develop common teaching materials and teaching methodologies appropriate for utilization at different levels in the ASEAN countries and also suggest means for getting them mass-produced and distributed.
  4. That all possible sources of funds be identified and secured, and that an attempt be made to develop a special fund for environmental education.

The initial projects on environmental education under the purview of AEGE were as follows :

  1. Regional Conference on Environmental Education in ASEAN Universities and Its Transfer.
  2. (Draft) Action Plan on Environmental Education and Training for ASEAN Countries, June 1983 – June 1986.

3.1 Regional Conference on Environmental Education in ASEAN Universities and Its Transfer

In its early recommendations, UNEP suggested that ASEAN hold a workshop on post-graduate environmental education, as part of the ASEAN activities toward instituting a network of universities in the region for developing and conducting a Post-Graduate Integrated Environment Education Programme. The workshop itself was to initiate mutual collaboration and to advance the activities.

The Third Meeting of AEGE, held on 19-23 May 1980 in Manila, Philippines, requested ASEAN Member Countries to prepare project proposals with Malaysia tasked to develop a Regional Seminar on Higher Education and Environment. The Fourth Meeting of AEGE on 8-10 April 1981 noted that Malaysia would hold such a regional conference. Malaysia eventually held the Regional Conference on Environmental Education in ASEAN Universities and Its Transfer, on 18-21 August 1981 in University of Pertanian, Selangor, Malaysia.

3.2 (Draft) Action Plan on Environmental Education and Training for ASEAN Countries, June 1983 – June 1986.

The Fourth Meeting of AEGE held on 8-10 April 1981 in Singapore, noted that there were various environmental education training courses. The Meeting provided a common format for each ASEAN Member Country to list the requirements and priorities in environmental education and training with the assistance of UNEP and UNESCO. The Interim Coordinator of AEGE formulated a Draft Action Plan on Environmental Education and Training for ASEAN Countries, June 1983-June 1986 which was presented at the Sixth Meeting of AEGE held on 22-24 March 1983 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

The Ninth Meeting of AEGE held on 22-24 April 1986 in Manila was informed of a Meeting on Environmental Education and Training (EET) for the Asia-Pacific Region held on 11-15 November 1985, and that this Meeting had drawn up an Action Plan/Programme of Action for Environmental Education and Training (EET) for the Asia-Pacific. In this regard, UNEP felt that the ASEAN Action Plan should be a part of the Asia-Pacific Action Plan, and therefore it was considered not necessary for ASEAN to have a separate Action Plan.

One of the important recommendations of the above-mentioned Meeting on EET was to set up a network of tertiary level institutions engaged in EET. Another recommendation was to identify an urgent need to develop curricula for tertiary level environmental education and training on the issues, initially of environmental economics, toxic chemicals and hazardous wastes and coastal zone management. Four EET Networks were established in 1986, namely :

    1. Asia Pacific Network for Tertiary Level Institutes
    2. EET Network in Environmental Economics
    3. Network on Coastal Zone Management
    4. Network on Toxic Chemicals and Hazardous Wastes Management Curricula Development

UNEP subsequently established the Network for Environmental Training at Tertiary Level in Asia and the Pacific (NETTLAP) with the project’s activities emphasizing the need for networking the development of curriculum materials and the implementation of training programmes related to the three above-mentioned issues, as well as other issues that have wider concerns associated with environment and development in the Asia-Pacific Region.

ASEP I (1978-1982) had put environmental education as a priority area in its programme, and some of the activities were :

    1. Meeting on Environmental Education for Asia and Oceania.

      The Meeting was completed in September 1980 in Bangkok. Its objective was to promote environmental education in Asia with emphasis on primary, secondary, non-formal and out-of-school education.

    2. Asia-Oceania Regional Workshop on Higher Environmental Education

      The workshop was organized in Melbourne and Canberra, August 1979, with all ASEAN members present. The objective was to promote regional programme on tertiary and post-graduate environmental education.

    3. Regional Seminar on Higher Education and Environment The Seminar which was implemented as Regional Conference on Environmental Education in ASEAN Universities and Its Transfer, elaborated above in section 3.1.

ASEP II (1983-1987) also included environmental education (and training) into its priority areas. The goal was the promotion of environmental education and training in the ASEAN region through the development of :

    1. suitable national programmes at school, out of school and other levels; and
    2. a network of institutions of higher learning offering environmental education, training, and research programmes.

The proposed new activities in relation to environmental education of ASEP II were as follows :

  1. Development of Prototype Curriculum Materials for Environmental Education (in-school).
  2. Development of Curriculum Materials for Non-Formal Education.
  3. Training and Development of Institutional Materials for Environmental Education (in-school).
  4. Training on Integration of Environmental Education Concepts in Various Disciplines as well as on the Development of Prototype Institutional Materials for Out-of-School Environmental Education.

IV. ASEAN’s Recent Initiatives in Environmental Education

In 1989, the AEGE was elevated to become ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN). From then until 1998, ASOEN tasked the issues on environmental education to the ASEAN Working Group on Environmental Information, Public Awareness and Education (AWGIPAE).

In the period of 1988 – 1992, ASEP III was implemented through the support of UNEP as a continuation to the previous ASEP programmes.

The First Meeting of AWGIPAE on 7-8 May 1991 in Bangkok, Thailand, made a prioritized list on environmental education projects as follows :

    1. Adaptation of Environmental Education Materials into Primary and Secondary School.
    2. Multi-Media Packages for Environmental Education on Sustainable Systems/Practices in the Various Ecosystems.

Other proposed projects on environmental education considered under ASOEN were :

    1. Development and Massive Production of Supplementary Instructional and Learning Materials for Environmental Education in All Levels (1st AWGIPAE Meeting) ;
    2. Enhancing Integration of Environmental Concepts in the Primary, Secondary, Tertiary and Non-Formal Education Curricula in the ASEAN Region (1st AWGIPAE Meeting) ;
    3. International Programme on Environmental Education (3rd AWGIPAE Meeting)
    4. Social Forestry, Education and Participation (3rd AWGIPAE Meeting)
    5. Survey on Environmental Conditions in Schools and Recommendations (6th AWGIPAE Meeting).

At its Fourth Meeting in July 1993 in Bangkok, ASOEN agreed that a new ASEAN Action Plan should be developed taking into account new developments following the outcome of UNCED which adopted Agenda 21. The ASEAN Strategic Action Plan on the Environment (ASPEN) for 1994-1998 has ten strategic thrusts with each thrust containing several actions to be taken. Environmental education is a part of the ASEAN effort to promote sustainable sustainable development, as stated in Action 9.2 of Strategy 9 of the ASPEN:

Strategic Thrust Actions
No. 9.  Promote regional activities that strengthen the role of major groups in sustainable development 9.2. Strengthen regional information network and promote exchange of expertise on environmental education programmes

Many of the projects under ASOEN were subsequently withdrawn because it was considered of less priority in relation to the newly developed ASPEN, and these included :

    1. Adaptation of Environmental Education Materials.
    2. Multimedia Packages for Environmental Education on Sustainable Development Systems/Practices in the Various Ecosystems in the ASEAN Region.
    3. International Programme on Environmental Education
    4. Social Forestry, Education and Participation.

The project proposal on Training Programme in Environmental Education for Science Teachers and Supervisors in the ASEAN Region was submitted at the Eighth Meeting of AEGE on 17-20 April 1985. The proposal was noted by the Ninth Meeting of AEGE on 22-24 April 1986 entitled Regional Training Programme of Training for Trainers in the ASEAN Region. The project was endorsed by the 15th ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (COST) Meeting in October 1986. It was further approved by UNESCO, ASEAN and UNDP in August 1988.

The First Meeting of AWGIPAE on 7-8 May 1991 in Bangkok, Thailand noted that the project’s status was on-going, and at the time the project had conducted the ASEAN planning meeting, regional and national training courses, and tripartite review of the programme (by UN agencies, Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development, and the National Economic and Development Authority of the Philippines) and sourcebook preparation.

The Sixth Meeting of AWGIPAE, held on 19-20 June 1996 in Brunei Darussalam, reviewed the ASPEN’s progress including the above-mentioned action 9.2. The ASEAN Member Countries also presented their country papers on their activities relevant to the working group.

The projects on environmental education that were then considered by ASOEN include :

  1. Regional Training on Integrated Environmental Education into Subject Matters for Primary School Teachers;
  2. Survey on Environmental Conditions in Schools and Recommendations for Improvements
  3. ASEAN Environmental Education Action Plan

4.1. Regional Training on Integrated Environmental Education into Subject Matters for Primary School Teachers

The project was considered at the Fifth Meeting of AWGIPAE in September 1995 in Bali. The project concept was endorsed at the Sixth ASOEN Meeting on 20-22 September 1995. It was approved in principle by the Sixth Meeting of AWGIPAE, held on 19-20 June 1996 in Brunei Darussalam.

The project’s objectives were :

  1. To provide primary school teachers with environmental information on issues and problems pertaining to ecological concepts and sustainable development;
  2. To improve primary school teachers capability in integrating ecological concepts into his/her own subject matters (i.e. natural sciences, social sciences, mathematics, physical education, etc.);
  3. To improve teachers’ ability in carrying out evaluation on integrated environmental education.

The project concept was endorsed at the Sixth Meeting of ASOEN on 20-22 September 1995. To date, the revised project proposal has yet to be submitted.

4.2. Survey on Environmental Conditions in Schools and Recommendations for Improvements

The project proposal was considered by the Sixth Meeting of AWGIPAE in June 1996 and is yet to be reformulated by its proponent.

The objectives of this project were :

  1. Analysis and evaluation of ambient physical conditions in the selected schools;
  2. Survey and evaluation of social-economic conditions in the selected schools;
  3. Recommendation of measures of waste treatment, improvement on environment in the selected schools;
  4. Recommendation of oriented measures and regulations on design of schools in various areas in the urban, rural area, etc.;
  5. Recommendation of measures for upgrading infrastructure, facilities, school equipment;
  6. Strengthening of public awareness of environmental protection in the schools.

4.3. ASEAN Environmental Education Action Plan

The proposal was presented at the Fourth AWGIPAE Meeting in July 1994. The Seventh ASOEN Meeting held in September 1997 agreed to endorse the project proposal.

On 4 February 1998, a Meeting was held between Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) and ASEAN Secretariat to discuss the development of the funding support for the project by the foundation and requested the project proponent to revise its Work Plan and Terms of Reference (ToR). The Work Plan and the ToR was approved by HSF and concerned ASEAN parties in June 1998.

The project’s objectives are as follows :

    1. To provide a framework for the development and implementation of environmental education (EE) activities;
    2. To enhance environmental manpower capability in ASEAN;
    3. To initiate mass-based action in managing the environment through information, education and communication (IEC) campaigns.

On 30 March 1999, a meeting was held between the two consultants selected to prepare the action plan, HSF representatives and ASEAN Secretariat officials to discuss the implementation arrangements of the project. The consultants were tasked to formulate the draft Action Plan based on the findings in each of the ASEAN countries.

A workshop to review the Draft ASEAN Environmental Education Action Plan was held on 9-10 November 1999 in Metro Manila. The workshop was held to discuss and provide comments for incorporation in the Draft. The revised draft has now been circulated for further review by ASEAN Member Countries.

Representatives from UNEP and Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) were also present at the workshop. UNEP has subsequently indicated its interest in collaborating in the preparation of the Action Plan by contributing funds for publishing the Plan when it is finalized.

The Environment Ministers of ASEAN Member Countries had on several occasions declared resolutions on the environment and development which incorporated environmental education. The resolutions were :

  1. Manila Declaration on the ASEAN Environment, Manila, 30 April 1981.

    The declaration adopted the policy guidelines to foster the development of environmental education programme. It also considered the programme on environmental education and training as a priority area.

  2. Bangkok Declaration on the ASEAN Environment, Bangkok, 29 November 1984.

    The relevant policy guidelines and priority areas from the Manila Declaration was further developed with respect to environmental education and training as follows :

    I. Continue efforts to enhance public awareness in respect of the importance of environmental protection and support governmental actions in this regard.

    II. Provide environmental training of personnel involved in decision-making on projects, programmes, policies and plans with emphasis on cause and effect relationship that exists between an individual’s environment and his health.

    III. Introduce stronger environmental theme into school and university syllabi.

    IV. Provide technical training for staff engaged directly in the work of environmental protection agencies and in environmental programmes of other agencies.

  3. Singapore Resolution on Environment and Development, 18 February 1992.

    To promote regional cooperation towards sustainable development, ASEAN Member Countries agreed to promote public awareness of environmental issues so as to bring about broader participation in environmental protection efforts, and to do so through greater exchange of information and experiences on approaches and strategies in environmental education.

The Second ASEAN Informal Summit, held in Kuala Lumpur on 15 December 1997, adopted the ASEAN Vision 2020 which sets out a broad vision for ASEAN in the year 2020. In order to implement the long term vision, action plans are being drawn up to realize this Vision. The Hanoi Plan of Action (HPA) is the first in a series of plans of action building up the goals of the vision. It has a six year time frame from 1999 to 2004. The HPA consists of six plan of actions which encompass cooperation in different areas. The environment sector is taken into account by Section VI of the Plan of Action on Protect the Environment and Promote Sustainable Development, which consists of 15 actions, and environmental education is included under action 6.15 :

Enhance public information and education in awareness of and participation in environmental and sustainable development issues.

V. Conclusions

As indicated in the preceding sections, several international organizations such as UNESCO, UNEP and HSF were instrumental in developing activities, projects and plans in the ASEAN region. As reflected in various ministerial resolutions and summit declarations, ASEAN continues to accord high priority to environment and sustainable development issues in general and environmental education activities in particular. A number of on-going and new initiatives in environmental education have already been mentioned earlier. It would therefore be a good opportunity for all the institutional parties and technical experts gathered at this forum to discuss ways and means on how to collectively move forward in implementing ASEAN-wide environmental education programmes. The ASEAN Environmental Education Action Plan is one of these activities that would provide an important boost for environmental protection efforts in Southeast Asia as we enter the new millennium. It is hoped that this Plan together with other Plans from the Asia-Pacific region provide a platform for generating substantive inputs from a regional perspective to the Rio + 10 Summit scheduled in 2002.