Welcome Remarks at the Second Asian Judges Symposium on Environment: Natural Capital and the Rule of Law

Welcome remarks by ADB President Takehiko Nakao at the Second Asian Judges Symposium on Environment:
Natural Capital and the Rule of Law held in Manila, Philippines on 2 December 2013

as drafted

I. Introduction

The Honorable Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Maria Lourdes Sereno; Chief Justices of Asian countries, Dr. Woo-Park and Mr. Perez; senior members of Asia and the Pacific's judiciaries; distinguished speakers; ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning. On behalf of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), I am delighted to welcome you to the Second Asian Judges' Symposium on Environment, with the theme of Natural Capital and the Rule of Law. I am also pleased to announce today the formal launch of the Asian Judges Network on Environment, on which much work has already been accomplished.

ADB is very pleased to partner with the Supreme Court of Philippines, the United Nations Environment Program, the World Wildlife Fund, USAID, and Freeland for this event, and I thank our partners for their continuing support.
As we start the Symposium today, I would like to cover three topics.

  1. ADB's Commitment to Natural Capital and the Rule of Law;
  2. The Asian Judges Network on the Environment; and
  3. Moving forward.

II. ADB's commitment to natural capital and the rule of law

On the first topic, we can all agree that the rule of law is fundamental to preserving natural capital. At ADB we believe both natural capital and the rule of law are essential to the economic development of our region. Good governance in a broader sense is essential for inclusive, sustainable economic development.

Governments need to be accountable and transparent, provide predictability in the application and enforcement of rules, and facilitate participation in governance by citizens. Each of these aspects of good governance involves the rule of law, and we recognize the rule of law as a universal value. As the champions of the rule of law and guarantors of justice, the judiciary is thus critical to both the rule of law and economic development, and conserving natural capital is a key part of inclusive, sustainable, economic growth.

When we talk of natural capital, we mean everything in our natural environment, living and non-living. It includes wildlife and forests as well as water and air. It includes the stock of our natural ecosystems that provide a free flow of valuable goods or services such as food, fiber, clean water and climate regulation.

Under our recently released Environmental Operational Directions for 2013 to 2020, ADB aims to help the Asia and Pacific region conserve its natural capital and ensure the provision of vital ecosystem services. Doing so is essential for reducing poverty, increasing resilience, and making green economies a reality.

Our support for ecosystem conservation relies largely on regional cooperation. For example, in the Coral Triangle, Region, an area of tropical sea waters covering Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Island and Timor- Leste, - or what some call as the "Amazon of the Seas" - those six countries are actively seeking to conserve their environmental and economic resources. Another important example is the Greater Mekong Sub-region Core Environment Program, and its flagship component, the Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative. This initiative seeks to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss in the Mekong countries by taking action to improve the forest cover and condition of ecosystems.

We also aim to strengthen environmental governance and management capacity - including laws, compliance and enforcement, and the role of the judiciary in that process. Our Environmental Operations Directions document specifically affirms support for the Asian Judges Network on Environment as an example of how ADB can best support this aspect - a point I will elaborate on in a moment.

As another example, we work with the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network, which provides a platform for information sharing and capacity building for Environmental Protection Agencies in the region. This month we are assisting a delegation from the Japanese Ministry of Environment to Sri Lanka to provide training on Environmental Impact Assessment and enforcement.

We also work extensively with our developing member countries to strengthen their environmental, land, involuntary resettlement and indigenous peoples' laws and regulations. We recently worked with Mongolia to develop a new eminent domain law that includes full social protection provisions in line with our own safeguards policy.

III. The Asian Judges Network on Environment

Let me turn now to my second topic: The Asian Judges Network on Environment. Over three years ago, in July 2010, the First Asian Judges Symposium was held here in Manila. At that event, ADB and the Supreme Court of the Philippines, together with UNEP and other partners, hosted over 110 members of the Senior Judiciary. Those participants called for an Asian Judges Network on the Environment, which is more permanent framework for cooperation. From this seed of an idea grew various ongoing and evolving partnerships. Today we launch the Asian Judges Network on Environment.

ADB strongly supports the Network because we understand the critical role that Chief Justices and their senior judiciary play in improving environmental enforcement and strengthening the rule of law. This role includes making environmental decisions, developing environmental jurisprudence, and establishing environmental courts. It also includes championing and leading the rest of the legal profession, the law enforcement community, and broader public, toward credible rule of law systems that have integrity and promote environmental justice.

Since that first symposium, ADB has supported the creation of the ASEAN Chief Justices' Roundtable on Environment in partnership with the Chief Justices' of ASEAN's ten member judiciaries. This Roundtable has been held in Jakarta, Indonesia; Melaka, Malaysia; and Bangkok, Thailand. Born from these events is the Common Vision on Environment for ASEAN Judiciaries. It highlights the critical role of ASEAN judiciaries as champions of the rule of law and environmental justice, and urges regional collaboration in developing environmental jurisprudence. We note that further steps were taken in Bangkok in November to implement this Vision, and ADB looks forward to continuing to support this initiative. Similarly, in South Asia, ADB has supported the formation of the South Asia Judicial Roundtable on Environment. Events have been hosted by the Chief Justices of Pakistan and Bhutan, leading to the Burban Declaration and Bhutan Declaration, which consolidate regional cooperation.

From our perspective, these Roundtables have been striking for two reasons. First, they have charted a regional Vision for Asian Judiciaries to contribute to Asia's immense environmental challenges. And second, each roundtable has been accompanied by concrete national commitments to advance the judiciaries' contribution to environmental protection and the rule of law within their jurisdiction.

For example, the Chief Justice of Indonesia announced his decree to certify specialist environmental judges and ensure they decide environmental cases. The Chief Justices of Pakistan and Malaysia have established environmental courts and judicial environmental training. And the Chief Justices of Viet Nam and Sri Lanka have committed to carry the torch forward in terms of the regional vision and national commitments into 2014.

As requested at the several meetings and events, we have established an on-line interface for all Asian Judiciaries to communicate landmark environmental judgments. The site contains the region's environmental laws and helps maintain a sense of community between face to face meetings. We have also supported delegations of Asian justices to join globally significant environmental events, including the Rio Conference, the Convention on Biodiversity, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Their presence at these events and the parallel law enforcement events we convened, highlights the importance the rule of law and the judicial role in enforcement of related national and international environmental laws.

IV. Moving forward

Lastly, how do we move forward? Your leadership is already demonstrating to the region's legal profession, law enforcement community and greater public that the preservation of natural capital is important, and upholding the rule of law is a key part of this.

But much still needs to be done. Through your exchanges over the next three days, we hope you can further define a way forward for the regions judges on the environment. ADB welcomes partnership with you on this agenda as it relates to our own operational work.

I encourage you to consider concrete recommendations for the Asian Judges Network and for the judicial role in preserving natural capital.

Thank you - and once again, welcome to the Second Asian Judges Symposium. The Asian Judges Network on Environment is now launched.