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ASEAN Chief Justices Taking Action on Environmental Law and Enforcement

Justices from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to measures to strengthen environmental law adjudication and enforcement in the region.

During the Fourth ASEAN Chief Justices’ Roundtable on Environment, held in Hanoi, Viet Nam from 12-14 December, justices from Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam indicated they had established national judicial working groups on environmental law, while most agreed to develop national environmental law bench books for use in courts and tribunals.

“As champions of the rule of law, ASEAN judiciaries’ have a unique and critical role in tackling the region’s key environmental challenges such as the illegal forestry and illegal wildlife trades,” said Kala Mulqueeny, Principal Counsel, in ADB’s Office of General Counsel. “What is exciting is how seriously these judiciaries are taking this role, while also calling for improvements at the police and prosecution levels.”

The roundtable meeting was hosted by ADB and the Supreme People’s Court of Viet Nam. It was attended by chief justices from Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Viet Nam; senior judges; senior members of national judiciaries; and ADB’s General Counsel, Christopher L. Stephens.

Among the key issues discussed at the event were balancing the rights of indigenous peoples and environmental protection, wildlife trafficking, deforestation, and the role of the judiciary as a champion of the environmental protection mandate. The roundtable also highlighted the significant progress made in greening benches and building capacity for environmental adjudication.

The meeting closed with strong support from the Supreme Court of Indonesia and the Supreme People’s Court of Viet Nam for the proposed Hanoi Action Plan, which enumerates concrete steps on how judges can take a more proactive role in environmental law enforcement. The plan, which provides a guiding document for ASEAN judiciaries for environmental dispute resolution, is to be formally adopted by January 2015.

ASEAN member countries include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2013, ADB assistance totaled $21.02 billion, including cofinancing of $6.65 billion.


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