21 November 2002, Vientiane, Lao PDR: ASEAN Ministers responsible for environment met on 20th November 2002 at the 7th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment to review regional and global environmental issues and to further enhance collaborative actions to protect the environment. The ASEAN Ministers also met the Environment Ministers from People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea at the 1st ASEAN+3 Environment Ministers Meeting today, 21st November 2002 to further enhance cooperation within the framework of ASEAN+3 Cooperation.
H.E. Dr. Thongloun Sisoulith, Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Committee for Planning and Cooperation, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) in his key note address emphasised that over the last five years since Lao PDR joined ASEAN, she along with other ASEAN countries gradually implemented with success the Hanoi Plan of Action on the environment and sustainable development. He also commended Ministers’ efforts in further realising the Hanoi Plan of Action in order to improve the state of the environment and to ensure sustainable development in ASEAN. He suggested that the ASEAN countries should work more actively to make sure that the Hanoi Plan of Action is consistent with the global plan, especially that of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. His Excellency also suggested that ASEAN should strengthen its cooperation with People’s Republic of China, Japan and Republic of Korea on environmental issues by learning from their best practices. He recommended that ASEAN should demonstrate commitment and continue its efforts particularly in promoting capacity building initiatives with these countries to protect the environment and enhance economic and social development for ASEAN people.
The Ministers reviewed progress of implementation in the various sectors, including transboundary haze, nature conservation and biodiversity, coastal and marine environment, multilateral environmental agreements, follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and public awareness activities. The Ministers also noted that the newly established ASEAN Working Group on Water Resources Management to be chaired by Thailand would further strengthen cooperation among member countries in research, conservation and information exchange on integrated water resources management.
The Ministers endorsed the Marine Water Quality Criteria for the ASEAN Region, the ASEAN Criteria for National Marine Protected Areas, and the ASEAN Criteria for Marine Heritage Areas. The Marine Water Quality Criteria sets values for an initial set of 17 parameters for the protection of aquatic life and human health, while the Criteria for National Marine Protected Areas and ASEAN Marine Heritage Areas contains criteria for designation and management of existing and new protected areas. These Criteria would ensure concerted national level action to protect the shared marine waters of ASEAN.
The Ministers designated 2003 as ASEAN Environment Year. The Ministers noted with appreciation the offer of Cambodia to host this event, and agreed on the theme: Together Towards Sustainable Development. The yearlong national and regional level activities will start with a regional launch in Siem Reap in Cambodia on 3.3. 2003. The ASEAN Environment Year celebrations are held every three years to showcase ASEAN achievements and commitments in environmental protection, and to promote public awareness in general.
The Ministers reviewed the actions taken to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The Ministers noted that a majority of ASEAN member countries have obtained national clearance to ratify the ASEAN Agreement. The Ministers agreed to work towards ensuring the entry into force of the Agreement by the date of the Regional Launch of the ASEAN Environment Year in early March 2003.
The Ministers also discussed the follow-up activities pertaining to the implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The Ministers recognized that sustainable development covers very wide dimensions: economic, social, and environmental protection. The Ministers therefore understood that to ensure the success and meaningful ways of the implementation of sustainable development, ASEAN has to define clear strategies and priorities, which, among others, cover the urban environmental issue, transboundary haze, biodiversity, global trade in forest products in environmental protection, sustainable forest management, and governance in environmental protection at regional, national, and local level. The Ministers noted that ASEAN has already undertaken activities at the national and regional level to implement the WSSD outcomes, and agreed to further intensify cooperation in ten priority areas that include among others urban environmental management and governance, sustainable forest management, and trade and environment. The Ministers hoped that commitments made by developed countries will be realized in order to effectively implement the WSSD outcomes. In this regard to further promote the ASEAN cooperation, the Ministers agreed to prioritise its programs and activities on sustainable development. It was agreed that each member country takes a lead in implementing programs/ activities in a particular area of concern.
The ASEAN Ministers also held consultations with representatives from the United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations University and UNDP/Partnership in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) on current and potential areas for collaboration.
The ASEAN Ministers also held fruitful discussion with their counterparts from People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. The Ministers reviewed national and regional cooperation among ASEAN member countries, and among the +3 countries. The Ministers noted the commonality of interests in environmental protection, especially those related to recent environmental issues, and agreed to further intensify cooperation, which should lay foundation for further actions, in the framework of ASEAN+3 cooperation. The ASEAN Ministers expressed appreciation on the current substantial cooperative activities between ASEAN and each of the +3 countries and hoped that these could be further synergized within the framework of ASEAN+3 cooperation. The Ministers also agreed that consultation visits be made by senior officials of ASEAN to the +3 countries to establish working level contacts with relevant officials and institutions to further implement specific activities agreed upon by the Ministers. The Ministers also agreed to nominate a contact person respectively to the ASEAN Secretariat in order to strengthen the communication among the ASEAN+3.