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Strengthening links between NHRIs and IGMs on environmental rights

Graphic: Apia / Western Samoa - April 21, 2013: A small old boat is anchored by the shore of a tiny bay near

NHRIs in South-east Asia and the Pacific are working with regional human rights bodies on the right to a healthy environment and climate change.

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Representatives from National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in South-East Asia and the Pacific have taken part in live discussions hosted by the APF to share updates on their work with regional human rights bodies on the right to a healthy environment and climate change. 

The virtual sessions, held on 22 March, were part of a regular learning and exchange series facilitated by the APF through its Intergovernmental Mechanisms (IGM) Project, funded by the European Union.

The Project supports NHRIs from the two sub-regions to develop their knowledge and capability to engage with their respective IGMs - the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF)

During the Pacific session, the NHRIs of Fiji and Samoa shared updates on their IGM small grants projects. The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-discrimination Commission provided an overview of recent consultations carried out across Fiji with local communities to discuss climate change, human rights and environmental issues. They will soon prepare a report and host a workshop based on the findings and feedback from these discussions. 

The Office of the Ombudsman of Samoa shared updates on preparations for a high-level dialogue and technical workshop on human rights relating to a clean and healthy environment and climate change, to engage government leaders and inform laws and policies to safeguard the human rights of Samoans. 

Maria-Goreti Muavesi, an environmental lawyer based in the Oceania Regional Office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Fiji, also took part in the meeting. She provided an overview of the current work being carried out by the IUCN, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the SPREP to examine the feasibility of a regional dispute resolution mechanism, which could take the form of an environmental or ‘green’ court, or mediation and arbitration court. 

During the South-East Asia live discussion, the NHRIs of Philippines and Thailand shared the status of their small grants project implementation. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines Commission has organised a writeshop to develop a Sub-Zero Draft of the Possible Framework on Environmental Rights with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  

In Thailand, the National Human Rights Commission has conducted a study on the Escazu Agreement, the landmark environmental treaty for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Aarhus Convention, the leading international agreement on environmental democracy, to assess the relevance of a similar treaty in the South-east Asian context.

The Thai Commission staff have also met with civil society organsiations and communities across Thailand to obtain feedback on the development of the ASEAN Framework on Environmental Rights. 

The Commission also provided details on its work as Chair of the Southeast Asia National Human Rights Institution Forum (SEANF). The NHRIs of both Thailand and the Philippines will take part in a technical Working Group meeting of SEANF members in Bangkok, to discuss future cooperation with AICHR and share their small grants implementation updates. 

The APF wishes to thank all participants of the live sessions, and IGM Lead Engagement Facilitators Romulo Nayacalevu and Karen Gomez-Dumpit for facilitating the discussions. 

Date: 31 March 2023

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Funded by the European Union

Image credits

  1. Apia / Western Samoa - April 21, 2013: A small old boat is anchored by the shore of a tiny bay near - James Dalrymple
  2. EU emblem - European Union