Islamabad: South Asian Conference on Environmental Justice, held in Bhurban, Pakistan on 24-25 March 2012, brought together Chief Justices and their designees from the highest courts of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Indonesia held under the auspices of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and supported by, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
South Asia is a developing region comprising one fifth of the world’s population. The challenge of sustainable development and scarcity of natural resources are common to the whole region making our environmental concerns similar which are extremely complex and serious requiring urgent attention by all stakeholders concerned.
It is time for the judiciaries in the region to take the cause of the environment and become pioneers of the sustainable development that is the need of the hour for the South Asian countries. Judiciary needs to accelerate its role that it has already assumed for the cause of the environment in the South Asian countries, and take it forward more aggressively, meaningfully and holistically.
The Conference had following objectives: First, to recognize common environmental concerns and to share information among South Asian Judiciaries on South Asia’s common environmental challenges; Second, to highlight the critical role of South Asian senior Judiciaries as leaders in national legal communities and champions of the rule of law and environmental justice, with the ability to develop environmental jurisprudence; Third, to develop a process for continuing the cooperation and engagement of SAARC senior judiciaries on environmental issues.
To further this cause the participants agree with the Vision Statement below in line with the Vision Statement adopted by the South East Asian Judiciaries, and to develop an Action Plan for Environmental Justice, Governance, the Rule of Law and Sustainable Development in SAARC countries.
The participants observed that the role of the judiciary is pivotal in resolving the environmental issues, but it is equally important that all stakeholders play their assigned role in protecting the environment and institutions must be effective, particularly from the point of view of enforcement of orders and directions. Further, the participants agreed to share the vision of this Conference with other judicial members in their respective countries. Further, it was agreed that the South Asian Judiciaries will:
i. Collaborate among themselves and, as appropriate, engage others in the environmental enforcement processes, to significantly improve the development, implementation, and enforcement of, and compliance of, environmental law and collaborate to make an Action Plan to achieve the same;
ii. Share information on South Asian countries’ common environmental challenges and, as appropriate, among the legal professionals, law schools, and the general public;
iii. Share information on environmental challenges and legal issues, and best practices in environmental adjudication among themselves, acknowledging the differences among their respective legal systems for the development of Asian Judges Network on Environment website;
iv. Strengthen specialised environmental courts, tribunals / green benches, where they exist and consider establishing them where they do not exist and specialised environment trainings/programs for judiciary and other members of the legal fraternity. The South Asian Judiciaries should also invite and support mutual training programs for judges from other jurisdiction from South Asia region;
v. Implement special rules of procedure for environmental cases where these already exist and consider developing and implementing them where they do not yet exist, which may include a flexible approach to legal standing, special rules of evidence for environmental cases, expediting cases, special remedies, injunctive relief, and other innovative environmental processes;
vi. Seek to ensure that judicial decisions on environmental cases are made available to the public and shared within the Asian Judges’ Network on Environment;
vii. Encourage law schools to include environmental law in their respective scheme of studies and legal professional associations/judicial academies to provide continuing legal education that includes environmental law and jurisprudence;
viii. Seek to hold a South Asia Justices’ Conference on Environment annually on rotational basis to further cooperation on environment, as a sub-regional group of the Asian Judges Network on Environment; and
ix. Shall develop a system for recognising the exceptional contributions of the judges and environmentalist for the cause of Environment.
This statement will be shared at the upcoming Asian Judges Symposium, to be held in Manila in 2012.
For more information, contact:
Shahid Hussain Kamboyo
Public Relations Officer
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 920 4184
Fax: +9251 920 1001