MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Asian judges proposed creation of an Asian Judges Network on the Environment to improve the quality of court rulings on environment and natural resource cases in the region at a seminar held at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Around 120 senior judges, environment ministry officials and civil society participants attended the "Asian Judges Symposium on Environmental Decision-Making, the Rule of Law, and Environmental Justice" on 28-29 July to discuss ways to ensure effective environmental adjudication and dispute resolution, access to justice, and promote the rule of law.
Participants shared their experiences in evolving environmental jurisprudence, as well as handling environment cases, including the challenges and needs that arise in doing their work. They discussed how best to achieve effective environmental enforcement, including working through judges networks convened by the Chief Justices in the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Association for South East Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries.
"We need judges to champion and lead the rest of the legal profession toward credible rule of law systems, compliance and enforcements that have integrity and promote environmental sustainability," ADB Vice-President Bindu Lohani said at the two-day symposium.
Mr. Lohani stressed that environment and climate change issues are key in reducing poverty, and that the symposium would initiate a continuing conversation among the region's judges and environmental officials.
The symposium was attended by Philippine Chief Justice Renato Corona and Indonesia's Chief Justice Harifin Tumpa, along with senior judges and officials from Bangladesh, Brazil, the People's Republic of China, France, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United States.
"As judges and lawyers, we have a significant role to play in the protection of the environment...Judges can make a contribution not only to the present generation, but also to future generations," Chief Justice Corona said at the conference.
"I saw that closer intent and cooperation is necessary to have judges of ASEAN countries jointly develop a "green bench"," said Indonesia's Chief Justice Tumpa, adding that the Indonesian Supreme Court is ready to host a meeting of chief justices and environmental judges of ASEAN countries next year.
Bakary Kante, Director of Division of Environmental Law and Conventions of UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said: "UNEP is committed to continue strengthening the capacity of judges as well as the whole judiciary. To achieve this, UNEP will work closely with ADB and other relevant partners for environmental justice and sustainability."
ADB has been assisting some Asian countries create a roadmap to strengthen the capacity of judges to consistently apply environmental and natural resources law and regulation.
The symposium was led by ADB and convened in partnership with UNEP, the Access Initiative of the World Resources Institute, the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network, and the Philippines Supreme Court.