JAKARTA, INDONESIA - Chief Justices and senior judiciary from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed on a common vision on the role of the judiciary in tackling regional environmental challenges, such as deforestation and illegal logging, the illicit trade in wildlife, pollution and the destruction of coral reefs.

The agreement was reached at a meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia yesterday in a bid to step up cooperation on legal issues linked to the region's shared environmental threats.

"The Asian Development Bank (ADB) strongly supports the Indonesian Supreme Court in convening this roundtable because Chief Justices and their senior judiciary play a critical role in improving environmental enforcement," said Jon Lindborg, ADB's Indonesia Country Director. "This includes championing and leading the legal profession towards credible rule of law systems that have integrity and promote environmental justice."

The Roundtable for ASEAN Chief Justices on Environment brought together Chief Justices, or their representatives, from member countries of ASEAN. It is jointly organized by ADB and the Supreme Court of Indonesia and supported by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Southeast Asia has a large proportion of its population dependent on agriculture, fishing and other natural resources. These resources are coming under heavy pressure from illegal logging and fishing, and the pollution and destruction of shared marine environments like the world-renowned Coral Triangle. Climate change driven by rising emissions of greenhouse gases also poses an increasing threat.

The roundtable discussed common challenges the judiciary in ASEAN countries face in adjudicating environmental legal cases and the role they can play in championing environmental justice. It culminated in a resolution on shared environmental challenges and areas for future cooperation. Malaysia agreed to host the next roundtable in December 2012.

The event is a follow-up to the Asian Judges' Symposium on Environmental Decision Making held in Manila, Philippines in 2010, which brought together over 110 judges, environment ministry officials and civil society representatives from Asia, Australia, Brazil, Europe, and the United States. The symposium proposed the establishment of an Asian Judges' Network on the Environment to help improve adjudication in environment and natural resource cases. ADB is providing technical assistance to support the network along with a parallel initiative in South Asia.

Asian judges, including some in ASEAN countries, have been involved in pioneering legal cases on the environment and are expected to provide valuable inputs at the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Sustainability that will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, immediately prior to the Rio+20 Earth Summit.

ASEAN member countries include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

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