A report published on legal instruments and practice in Southeast Asia by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law supports the 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.
Published on December 1, 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 for working, studying, and playing, 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 could adopt a regional instrument similar to the Escazu agreement adopted by Latin American and Caribbean countries, or become a party to the Aarhus Convention, a European agreement that is now open to the 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).