Hopefully you will have come across this blog as you were taking a look at our new AECEN website, which thanks to John and Milag is starting to get closer to being a really useful site for our members. In fact this will be a year full of changes for our members, as the AECEN Secretariat transitions to its new, permanent home in the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). The membership is expected to become more proactive and to participate in not only the traditional twinning activities (peer-to-peer exchanges) and the AECEN Forums, but also to contribute information to the website on a routine basis, participate in task forces around certain themes (such as environmental compliance assistance centers), contribute to scaling up and replicating best practices, promote AECEN as a unique delivery system to their normal development partners, and drive the future evolution of the network. To this end, the Secretariat sent out a comprehensive questionnaire to all members asking which activities the members felt they can contribute to the network. As we go out to new development partners seeking funds for AECEN over the next few years, being able to demonstrate that our members are more than willing to do their share will help to shake a few dollars loose from a tightening development assistance scene.
The year 2011 has many other exciting developments underway. We have new twinning mentors in New Zealand, Republic of Korea, and the Peoples’ Republic of China. In fact, we will have at least 9 twinning partnerships under implementation during the year. The range of topics will include soil contamination, environmental impact assessment, self-reporting and self-monitoring, permitting, public participation, and environmental adjudication—all topics that our members have identified as high priority. A development marketplace will be held towards the end of the year, in which we hope that new development partners will commit to supporting AECEN. Our Executive Committee meeting on 3-4 May had a very wide ranging agenda which will determine the future directions of AECEN, and we are now converting these decisions into an action plan.
As the year progresses, I will use this blog to not only keep you up to date on the network and its activities but also hopefully challenge you to debate differing approaches to environmental compliance and enforcement. Is voluntary compliance a culturally appropriate approach to environmental management in Asia or is it a convenient cover for an unwillingness to enforce the law? Why have some countries found it necessary to create an environmental police force, instead of equipping the national environment agency with increased police powers? Should Asian countries follow the US lead and declare carbon dioxide as a pollutant dangerous to human health? Are the Supreme Courts becoming too activist in directing national environment agencies to enforce the laws? Is it still dangerous to be a whistleblower or environmental activist in Asia, drawing attention to egregious examples of environmental crimes? I look forward to an informed debate on these topics not only from the AECEN members but also from individuals interested in the topic of environmental compliance and enforcement.
Dr. Peter N. King