Third ASEAN Chief Justices Roundtable on Environment (15 – 18 November 2013, Bangkok)

The Third Association of Southeast Asian Nations (“ASEAN”) Chief Justices Roundtable on the Environment (the “Third Roundtable”) convened on 15 – 18 November, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss the next steps for cooperation amongst the ASEAN judiciaries to enforce and shape effective environmental law for the region. The Third Roundtable brought together Chief Justices, or their representatives, from member countries of ASEAN, along with other environmental experts. It was jointly organized by the Asian Development Bank (“ADB”) and the Supreme Administrative Court of Thailand.

The Third Roundtable discussed the challenges of the judiciary in ASEAN countries in adjudicating environmental legal cases and the role they play in championing environmental justice and maintaining the rule of law. “Southeast Asia, one of the world’s most bio-diverse regions, faces huge shared environmental challenges, and the judiciary plays a critical role in addressing them,” said Kala Mulqueeny, Principal Counsel at ADB.

Legal responses to cross-border threats from climate change, pollution, deforestation and the illegal trade in wildlife and timber were at the top of the agenda. Interactive discussions were held on the judiciary’s role in protecting biodiversity and combatting illegal wild life trade, how the ASEAN judiciaries can develop international cooperation to increase the effectiveness of efforts to fight unsustainable and illegal logging and haze and prevent smuggling of logs and illegal log trades, how the courts and their judgment can remedy pollution problems and innovative ways ASEAN courts can deal with problems and obstacles of access to justice to their people. It also provided an opportunity for various judiciaries to speak on their country-specific experiences. Speakers included H.E. Mya Thein, the Justice of the Supreme Court of the Union of Myanmar, Tuong Duy Luong, Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court of Viet Nam, Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Philippines and Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia, among many others. The Third Roundtable also considered issues such the application of interim relief measures and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in environmental cases, and the enforcement and execution of court orders.

The Third Roundtable expanded the network and collaboration amongst the ASEAN judiciaries and culminated in proposals to take forward the work of the ASEAN Chief Justices Roundtable on the Environment. Viet Nam has agreed to host the fourth roundtable in 2014.