MANILA, PHILIPPINES – An Asian Judges Network on Environment has been formally launched in Manila, marking a new stage of cooperation amongst justices cast with enforcing environmental laws and helping to preserve the region’s precious natural capital.
“Chief Justices and their senior judiciary play a critical role in improving environmental enforcement and strengthening the rule of law,” said Asian Development Bank (ADB) General Counsel Christopher Stephens. “They can champion and lead the rest of the legal profession, the law enforcement community, and broader public toward rule of law systems that promote environmental justice.”
The three-day Second Asian Judges Symposium on Environment drew eminent judges and representatives of courts, environment ministries, prosecutor’s offices, the legal profession, and civil society from Asia and the Pacific, and beyond. ADB hosted the event in partnership with the Supreme Court of Philippines, United Nations Environment Program, World Wildlife Fund, United States Agency for International Development, and the Freeland Foundation. It builds on work started in 2010, where the regions justices called for an Asian Judges Network on Environment, and having been working since that time.
Natural capital is under threat from the human appetite for resources, and from damaging practices like illegal logging, wildlife poaching, destructive fishing activity, and pollution. Although it's a huge provider of services and jobs, there are gaps in valuing the true worth of natural capital across Asia, and existing laws to protect resources need to be strengthened.
The symposium covered a broad range of topics, including recent judicial innovations in environmental cases in the region, and increasing understanding of the true economic value of natural capital and its contribution to socioeconomic development. The network is the culmination of work begun at the first Asian Judges Symposium on the Environment held at ADB headquarters in 2010.
ADB, under its Environmental Law, Justice and Development Program, is helping to generate knowledge on environmental challenges among judiciaries, and to strengthen the capacity of judges to decide environmental cases and to share experiences. Along with hosting sub-regional roundtables on the environment for senior judges from ASEAN member countries and South Asia, ADB has also worked on programs with national judiciaries. Regional legal experiences and a collection of environmental laws from Asia have been published and made available online.