The 31st meeting of ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN 31) and related meetings were held from 24-27 November 2020 in Hanoi organised by the ASEAN Secretariat and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Viet Nam via videoconference. Deputy Minister Vo Tuan Nhan attended and delivered the opening speech at the Conference. Mr. Nguyen Van Tai, Director General of the Viet Nam Environment Administration, Chairman of ASOEN Viet Nam, was the Head of the Vietnamese delegation.
The ASEAN cooperation on the environment began with the establishment of the ASEAN Experts Group on the Environment (AEGE) under the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology. In 1989, the AEGE became the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN). The ASOEN has subsidiary bodies or working groups, of which one is the ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change.
The ASOEN and its subsidiary bodies meet yearly to supervise the implementation of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint 2025 and the ASEAN Strategic Plan for Environment, the latter being currently revised.
ASOEN 31 provided an occasion for ASEAN member countries to review ASOEN activities and issue recommendations to improve their effectiveness, contributing to the realisation of targets in the draft ASEANStrategic Plan on the Environment as well as environmental sustainability within the framework of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community and the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
Apart from officials of member states, the meeting was also being attended by representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat, the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, the EU Delegation to Viet Nam, and the German Agency for Development Cooperation (GIZ).
Opening ASOEN 31, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Vo Tuan Nhan said the Vietnamese Government always attaches importance to environmental protection, especially biodiversity conservation; the management of water resources, the marine environment, and coastal zones; climate change; chemicals and waste; marine plastic waste; and sustainable economic development. He noted that Viet Nam strongly supports the building of an ASEAN Action Plan on Marine Waste and the bloc’s joint declaration at the 15th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity. By jointly developing a regional action plan and issuing joint declarations, member countries reflect their cohesion in working with the international community to deal with global environmental problems, Deputy Minister Nhan said. To achieve environmental sustainability, he called upon all parties to exert stronger efforts to resolve pressing issues such as trans-boundary water and air pollution, marine plastic waste, and climate change, to ensure better social welfare and a safer living environment while sustainably conserving and managing biodiversity for the sake of current and future generations of people throughout ASEAN.
ASOEN 31 will submit the following documents to the ASEAN Minister of Environment for approval: New ASEAN Heritage Park Nominations; ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Marine Plastic Waste; draft ASEAN-China Cooperation Strategy and Action Plan on Environment; notes on the year of ASEAN-China Sustainable Development Cooperation 2021; ASEAN-Korea Dialogue on Environment and Climate Change 2021.
In addition, ASEAN member states also submitted to the ASEAN Minister of Environment to acknowledge the documents on: ASEAN Resource Board Terms of Reference; ASEAN – UK High-Level Dialogue/Ministerial Forum on the sidelines of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC); updates on the draft ASEAN Strategic Plan on Environment; ASEAN Joint Statement on Strengthening Drought Resilience.
Side events of ASOEN 31 include the 14th ASEAN-Japan Dialogue on Environmental Cooperation, the 17th ASEAN Plus Three Senior Officials’ Meeting on the Environment, and the second ASEAN-EU High-Level Dialogue on the Environment and Climate Change.