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Environment and Civil Society

Emmy Hafild, WALHI/ FOE Indonesia

 

Civil society plays an important role in protecting the environment.There are a variety means by which civil society advocates for the environment.

 

1. Environmental Advocacy Groups

Advocacy for the environment is always required.The basic principle is; donít leave the government and companies to work alone without the involvement of the community.

 

Advocating for the environment includes a broad range of activities including policy advocacy, law enforcement, public education and community organising.

 

Policy Advocacy

The activities associated with policy advocacy and law enforcement include;

a) challenging and changing environmentally destructive policies;

b) proposing new laws and regulations for environmental protection;

c) enforcement of environmental laws via litigation:

 

Under Indonesian laws no 23-1997 that have been temporarily adopted here in East Timor, litigation to enforce environmental law can be undertaken using legal standing or class action.Weiweik Awiati will talk about this in more detail in the workshop on environmental law.

d) corruption watch;

e) corporation watch.

 

Public Awareness

Raising public awareness is a very important role assumed by environment groups.This involves environmental education and campaigns.Examples of issues that require public education are waste disposal and the importance and means of conserving endangered species.

 

Environmental advocacy groups play an important role in resistance movements.This involves work with local communities to oppose environmental destruction.Campaigns targeting a specific local issue can be very effective.Community based environmental management can also be organised by environment groups.

 

2. Approaches to environmental protection

Organisations may take a conservation based approach, or a rights based approach.

 

Conservation based

A conservation based approach prioritises the protection of ecosystems, and endangered species.These are considered to be more important than humans.

 

Rights based

Another approach is the environmental justice approach.This involves protection of the environment while also struggling for social equality, democracy, and human rights. Generally environmental groups from developing countries such as East Timor and Indonesia take the second approach.The Indonesian based environment group that I work with, WALHI, takes such a rights based approach.

 

Protection of the environment can also be approached in terms of indigenous rights.As already discussed, the approach of management of the environment and natural resources by the community can also be very effective

 

3. My recommendations for the agenda here:

Monitor government in policy and law making both of UNTAET, and of the soon to be elected Timorese Parliament.

Monitoring of donors, such as USAID, UNDP, ADB, and the World Bank as they are likely to cause destruction of our environment.

Enact new environmental laws - East Timorís versions, acknowledging indigenous rights.

Management of the environment by the community - donít let control of the forests be taken away by corporations. The community must retain the right to control and possess their forests.

Watch incoming investors, donít repeat Indonesian mistakes.

Watch for corruption - the government will almost certainly be corrupt.

Struggle for transparency, accountability and participation in democracy.

Base policies on local customs, donít destroy those local customs, but combine them with a good democratic system.

 

Act now, while the government is still close to the people, the longer the government is in power, the further away they will become from the people.