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Source: Small Island Developing States

The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI) has published a report on legal instruments and practice in Southeast Asia that support a right to a healthy environment. The authors find that countries in the region that recognize this right are in a better position to tackle environmental challenges.

Launched on 1 December 2020, the report titled, ‘Prosperous and Green in the Anthropocene: The human right to a healthy environment in Southeast Asia,’ provides a detailed overview of specific laws, policies, and court decisions in member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that support the right to a healthy environment. It also proposes options for strengthening implementation.

According to the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, this right includes the rights to clean air, a safe climate, access to safe water and adequate sanitation, healthy and sustainably produced food, non-toxic environments in which to work, study and play, and healthy biodiversity and ecosystems. In order to secure this right, people must have access to information, public participation in environmental decision making, and access to justice and effective remedies.

The authors explain that recognizing the human right to a healthy environment helps ensure the conditions for continued sustainable development and prosperity. “The social-ecological crises we are experiencing do not affect all people in the same way,” and as countries seek to solve them, they need effective human rights and environmental legal and policy frameworks.

ASEAN countries have several options to strengthen their right to a healthy environment, according to the report. First, they could adopt a regional instrument similar to the Escazu agreement adopted by Latin American and Caribbean countries, or become party to the Aarhus Convention, a European agreement that is now open to non-European Member States. ASEAN governments also could support integrating human rights into the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and other multilateral environmental agreements. Among other further options they could continue to support specialized environmental courts and national human rights institutions (NHRIs). [Publication: Prosperous and Green in the Anthropocene: The human right to a healthy environment in Southeast Asia] [Launch event recording] 

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News