The Challenges Ahead

Southeast Asian Affairs, January 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Challenges Ahead


The situation appears bleak, but it does not have to be. Governments have acknowledged that the problem is approaching a critical level. Statements from ASEAN attest to a regional awareness of the ecological, economic, and social costs of resource depletion, pollution, and loss of species, habitat, and environmental services, and the barriers to overcoming these problems. In the introduction to ASEAN's First State of the Environment Report in 1997, then Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dato' Ajit Singh, called for an intensification of efforts under the ASEAN Strategic Plan on the Environment (now superceded by the Strategic Plan of Action on the Environment). Cambodian Minister for the Environment, Dr Mok Mareth, has argued that strategies for regional environmental co-operation and sustainable development should include not only regional agreements but common laws to enforce those agreements, commonly accepted environmental standards, and immediate response capacity for environmental emergencies.31 This requires more than dialogue and discussion. At both the national and regional levels, it requires political will and substantial resources, better flow of information and more effective public education, the adoption and transfer of environmentally sound technologies, and better training and capacity for developing and implementing environmental law and regulations. These resources can be generated in part within the region, through a reassessment of funding priorities, through the use of pricing and market-based mechanisms to encourage investment in better technologies and pollution reduction. However, much more attention and assistance has to come from developed countries and the international community on equity as well as practical grounds. It has to involve technology transfer, capital assistance for environmentally-sound investment and infrastructure, building human and administrative capacity in environmental management, monitoring, and implementation. The funds presently made available through development programmes and other financial mechanisms are simply insufficient.

Besides material resources, more effective policy management for environmental protection and sustainable development in Southeast Asia requires a deeper commitment from the private sector and more active participation from the local communities. It is important that rights to and responsibilities for resource and environmental management are equitably shared among stakeholders. …

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