Ben W Boer and Alan Boyle
Background paper, human rights and environment, interaction, crosscutting issues, sustainable development, access to information, participatory rights, actors, institutions, governance and climate change, Europe, Asia
This Background Paper was prepared for the Asia-Europe Foundation‘s 13th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights which took place in October 2013 in Copenhagen. It gives an overview of the topic of human rights and the environment and explores the interaction between these two fields. A number of crosscutting issues are identified. A fundamental set of questions concerns the relationship between human rights concepts and the need to protect and conserve the environment at international, regional and national levels. While many of the issues raised are presented from a legal perspective, clearly, a number of approaches can be taken to the interaction between human rights and the environment, for example from the point of view of ecology, political science, international relations, economics and sociology. The paper addresses four themes with examples drawn from the European and Asian regions: Sustainable Development, Environment and Human Rights; Access to Information, Participatory Rights and Access to Justice; Actors, Institutions and Governance and Climate Change and Human Rights Implications. The paper argues that while neither the European Union (EU) countries nor countries in the Asian region are by any means uniform in the development of human rights and environmental protection at a national level, there is a good deal more coherence in terms of a regional approach in Europe compared with Asia. In relation to human rights, this is in part because of the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights. In Asia, apart from the Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights established by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2009, no such regional structures exist. In the environmental realm, there is a reasonable amount of consistency in the development of environmental law across the European Union, because of the directives and regulations issued by the European Parliament and the oversight of the European Commission. In Asia, there is little capacity for region-wide or sub-region-wide environmental law-making, with the exception of the ASEAN member states. Differing social, cultural, political and economic circumstances in the European and Asian regions are the drivers of these distinctions.
Human Rights and the Environment – Background Paper for the 13th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights (February 10, 2014). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 14/14.