ASEAN calls to reduce marine plastic pollution during pandemic

JAKARTA, 18 August 2020 Today, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) and the Norwegian Institute for Water Research, in coordination with the ASEAN Secretariat and the Government of Norway, held the Regional Webinar on Reducing Marine Plastic Pollution during the COVID-19 Pandemic in ASEAN Countries.

The webinar is part of ASEAN-Norwegian Cooperation Project on Local Capacity Building for Reducing Plastic Pollution in the ASEAN Region’s (ASEANO) efforts to support ASEAN in combating marine plastic debris during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representatives from ASEAN Member States (AMS), notably ASEAN Working Groups responsible for coastal and marine environment, environmentally sustainable cities, and chemicals and waste, as well as ASEAN Dialogue Partners and various organisations attended the webinar.

In his remarks, Ambassador of Norway to ASEAN Morten Høglund stated that “Norway is proud to partner with ASEAN in combatting marine littering, for cleaner oceans and waterways. The ASEANO is one of the flagship projects in the ASEAN-Norway partnership.’’

He also mentioned that governments must recognise the crucial role of waste-management services and their workers in the transition to a sustainable future, and allocate COVID-19 spending accordingly.

‘’This would advance multiple Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 11 (which calls for cities to ensure effective waste management), SDG 12 (reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse), and SDG 14 (reduce marine pollution of all kinds),” he concluded.

On his part, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Socio-Cultural Community Kung Phoak stated that, “while the demand trend for plastic supplies is expected to tailor-fit to the pandemic necessities for the sake of flattening the curve and saving lives, the COVID-19 pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to bring about an increased focus on sustainability.’’

He further elaborated that the pandemic presents an opportunity to leverage  ASEAN’s initiatives in addressing the dual challenge of pandemic and plastic pollution by exploring innovative ways to raise public awareness and promote behavioral change, advancing technological innovations, strengthening public private partnership and striving for universal access to waste management.

Dr. Arisman from the Center for Southeast Asian Studies facilitated the webinar. The panel session included Dr. Supawat Kan-atireklap (ASEAN Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment), Dr. Thorjørn Larssen (Norwegian Institute for Water Research), Michikazu Kojima (Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia) and was moderated by Dr. Vong Sok (Environment Division of the ASEAN Secretariat).

The webinar brought up the challenges and opportunities in reducing marine plastic pollution in ASEAN during the pandemic through an integrated perspective of environmental and social approaches.

The discussions emphasised the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration across the plastics value chain and investment in waste management infrastructure, the need to advance technological innovations and promote behavioral change, and the need to coordinate efforts among different regional initiatives to help tackle marine debris issue in the region.

The event was broadcast live on CSEAS’ YouTube channel

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