ASEAN Member Countries continue to be actively engaged in addressing global environmental issues in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. Although the region is not the major source of these environmental problems, it is most vulnerable to their adverse effects particularly, the effects of climate change due to global warming, dumping of toxic and hazardous chemicals, and loss of biodiversity.

The countries of the region had been very responsive to many of these issues and had, in fact, accomplished much to meet their commitments. To promote ASEAN cooperation on global environmental issues, in particular on the atmospheric and chemicals related cluster of conventions, the member countries established the ASEAN Working Group on Multilateral Environmental Agreements (AWGMEA). The AWGMEA aims to:

  • Strengthen cooperation among member countries in the implementation of existing international instruments or agreements in the field of environment, taking into account, in particular, the needs of ASEAN
  • Identify and address and problems that constraint the member countries, from participating in or duly implementing international environmental agreements or instruments and, where appropriate, to review or revise them for the purpose of further integrating environmental concerns into the development process.
  • Promote and support the effective participation of ASEAN countries in the negotiation, implementation, review and governance of international environmental agreements or instruments, including appropriate provision of technical and financial assistance and other available mechanisms for this purpose
  • Exchange views and information on new or revised Multilateral Environmental Agreements and
  • Upgrade ASEAN capacity for negotiations in Multilateral Environmental Agreements

The above objectives are principally in line with the specific programme areas and measures in the Vientiane Action Programme (VAP) relevant to the AWGMEA as follows:

3.3.1   Global Environmental Issues   Promoting national and regional cooperation to address measures related to the cluster of multilateral environmental agreements addressing atmospheric issues such as Climate Change and Vienna Conventions and its Protocols.   Promote national and regional cooperation to address measures related to the cluster of multilateral environmental agreements addressing chemical and chemical wastes such as the Basel , Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions.

The AWGMEA currently focuses attention on the following international conventions related to atmosphere and chemicals. These are as follows:

Atmosphere related conventions

•  Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer

•  United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol

Chemicals related conventions

•  Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and the Disposal

•  Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade

•  Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants .

ASEAN Member Countries’ Participation in Multilateral Environmental Agreements (as of August 2009)

Atmosphere related conventions



Vienna Convention (r)



Montreal Protocol (r)






Kyoto Protocol (r)




Chemicals related conventions



Rotterdam Convention (r)



Stockholm Convention (r)



Basel Convention (r)



Synergies and Inter-linkages among Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Despite a relatively high commitment towards the respective conventions, many member countries are facing technical constraints in implementing them. The numerous obligations of the international conventions weigh quite heavily on the financial and human resources of member countries and this has prompted ASEAN to explore innovative means to increase their effectiveness and efficiency to implement the respective conventions. AWGMEA collaborated with the United Nations University (UNU) Global Environment Information Centre (GEIC) and United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to launch an initiative on synergies and inter-linkages among multilateral environmental agreements. The initiative started off with an Informal Regional Consultation on Inter-linkages: Synergies and Coordination among Multilateral Environmental Agreements in Kuala Lumpur from 26-27 February 2001, a key outcome of the consultation was the conduct of an ASEAN case study. The Case Study explored the possibilities of synergies and coordination among Multilateral Environmental Agreements, assessed the status of implementation of conventions which ASEAN member countries are party to and explored opportunities where member countries could better coordinate the implementation of the conventions, especially with regards to strategy and planning, institutional and legal frameworks, financing, capacity building, information management, communications, networking and stakeholder participation. To follow up on the preliminary findings of the ASEAN case study, a Regional Workshop on Integrated Capacity Development in ASEAN on Multilateral Environmental Agreements was held in Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia from 24-26 March 2003. The Workshop explored the opportunities and constraints in increasing cooperation and mutual supportiveness of environmental agreements both in scale (national/regional/global) and across issues (climate change, biodiversity, chemicals) in the ASEAN region. The overall objective was to strengthen regional and national governance structures and cooperation in environmental management by identifying prospects in the promotion of cooperation and mutual supportiveness of these agreements.

Effective Implementation of the Chemicals and Hazardous Wastes Conventions

The cluster of chemicals conventions are fairly technical in nature, and as such member countries still need to consider their own capacity before ratification. To further identify ASEAN member countries’ needs to the related conventions, a Workshop for the Effective Implementation of the Chemicals and Hazardous Waste Conventions was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 17-22 September 2001, and the Meeting recognized that member countries still lacked the appropriate technologies, legal frameworks, plans and strategies, and funds to effectively implement the conventions. ASEAN is therefore taking steps by first helping one another through the sharing of experiences, such as preparation of national implementation plans. Other strategies include adopting appropriate technologies through technology transfer exercises particularly on risk management and emergency responses; legal enforcement measures by establishing proper institutional and legal framework; public awareness; and identifying capacity building needs. On 17 May 2005, the Working Group further conducted consultation with the Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention on promoting the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention in the ASEAN region. In the ensuing discussion, it was recognised that most of the challenges identified, concerning the ratification and implementation of the Rotterdam Convention, were at the national level. Regional level efforts are being focused in assisting member countries to resolve many of the common issues at the national level.