On December 13, 2022, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) conducted a four hour virtual conference on Rights-Based Approach to Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Prevention in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, which provided a safe platform for environmental advocates, civil society organizations (CSOs), community leaders, research institutions, the legal sector, academia, government agencies and the media, from the Philippines and Indonesia to share insights and discuss strategy to mitigate the impact of climate change on human rights. Attended by 42 representatives, 27 from the Philippines and 15 from Indonesia, the conference was supported by ABA ROLI’s Right to Resilience Program (R2R).
Island communities, especially Indigenous communities, are disproportionately impacted by climate change, but are often unable to participate in government decision-making. Through community-based monitoring of and advocacy about the impact of climate change on human rights, support for professional and citizen journalists, and direct legal aid and strategic litigation, communities will strengthen the protection of their rights in the face of environmental change. Regional convenings, like the virtual conference, bring together citizens, CSOs, journalists, and legal defenders to build on and scale successes. The goal of the R2R program is for communities to participate in political and decision-making processes and influence governments to take action to mitigate the impact of climate change on human rights on island nations. This program activity, among others, contributes to the long-term, systemic goal of achieving mitigation and minimizing the impact of climate change on human rights in island communities.
Mr. Peter Mackenzie, ABA ROLI’s Country Director of the Philippinesfor ABA ROLI, welcomed participants his and highlighted the importance of looking at climate change issues through the human rights lens, and supporting communities in order to enable their participation in political and decision-making processes aimed at the mitigation of climate change’s impact on human rights. Ms. Irina Parshikova, ABA ROLI’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, delivered a message stressing the importance of the conference to promote regional collaboration and discussion on the solution to mitigate climate change and its impact on human rights.
In a discussion on the science of climate change, the first panel addressed various climate change scenarios and lessons learned from climate change incidents in the Philippines and Indonesia in 2022. It was moderated by Mr. Muhammad Reza Zaini, ABA ROLI’s Technical AdvisorA ROLI in Indonesia.
The first speaker from the Philippines, Mr. John Leo C. Algo, the Deputy Executive Director of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines, an interfaith movement calling on Philippine financial institutions to divest from coal-related operations and other environmentally harmful activities, explained climate change through the lens of natural science. He emphasized the need to reduce global warming through drastic decarbonization which can be achieved by removing current emissions and reducing future emissions. This was followed by the presentation of Mr. Bimo Dwi Satrio, the Senior Research Officer of the Center for International Forestry Research Indonesia, a non-profit, scientific institution that conducts research on the most pressing challenges of forest and landscape management around the world with an aim to improve human well-being, protect the environment, and increase equity. He presented the anthropological perspective of climate change implications. In the open forum that followed, participants asked how the Philippines and other developing countries cope with the non-compliance of more developed countries to whichneed to share the burden of reducing their carbon footprint, while Mr. Algo emphasized that it is never too late to mitigate, however there is a need to diversify solutions in order to maximize the benefits.
The second panel highlighted the identification of climate change vulnerabilities across regions and sectors in order to determine mitigation measures. It was moderated by Atty. Karen Tolentino, ABA ROLI’s Program Officer in the Philippines. Atty Mai Taqueban, Executive Director of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, a CSO in the Philippines that works for the recognition and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and upland rural poor communities to land and environment, presented the impact of climate change among the indigenous peoples in the Philippines, as well as what can be done to support adaptation and mitigation. Taqueban pointed out that indigenous peoples are the first to face the direct consequences of climate change since they are highly dependent on their environment and underscored the need to protect and promote their right to land. This was followed by a presentation by Ms. Puspa Dewy, Head of Policy Analysis and Environmental Law Divisions of the Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (in English, the Indonesian Forum for Living Environment), who elaborated on the analysis of current climate crisis mitigation efforts in Indonesia.
The third presentation panel was a learning session about community practices and was moderated by Ms. Shinta Permata Sari, ABA ROLI’s Program Officer in Indonesia. Mr. Edi Mulyono, a resident of Pari Island in Indonesia, elaborated on the impact of climate change on the life of the Pari Island community based on his experience. He shared that in dealing with the impacts of climate change, the residents of the island have planted mangroves, constructed houses on higher land, and cultivated produce for their daily needs. In the Philippines, Mr. Rojohn Lee Ented, Chairperson of Teduray and Lambangian Youth and Students Association, talked on the best practices of indigenous peoples from Mindanao in maintaining good relations with nature. Mr. Ented discussed how Teduray and Lambangian indigenous people in the Philippines is reviving their traditional agroecology practices based on “Sulagad”, a worldview that holds nature as a sacred source of life. This practice promotes agroecological practices and restores territorial and food sovereignty and preserves their ancestral land.
At the end of the conference, participants actively shared their insights on the topics discussed. Mr. Ingki Rinaldi, from Kudu Communication Indonesia, highlighted the factors that impact environmental degradation and climate change, and emphasized the importance of communicating these factors to the wider community. Atty. Mae Fretzel Deadio, a lawyer from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region XII, extended her appreciation to the speakers for their insights as well as to ABA ROLI for providing a platform to share knowledge and experience. Dr. Daniel Lising, Law Reform Specialist V from the University of the Philippines Institute of Human Rights, reiterated the unprecedented impact of climate change on communities and individuals, and emphasized the importance of adaptation, not only mitigation.
In her closing remarks, Atty. Liezl Parajas, ABA ROLI’s Deputy Chief of Party in the Philippines, echoed similar sentiments as she expressed her hope for a sustained commitment from both developed and developing nations.
The virtual conference was facilitated by Atty. Jadelee Marquez, ABA ROLI’s Program Manager in the Philippines.