“The recent adoption by the ASEAN heads of governments of the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris demonstrates the commitment of the 10 ASEAN Member States in protecting and conserving the region’s rich marine resources.” This was emphasised by Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim, Executive Director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), as she lauded the ASEAN’s call for collaborative actions to prevent and significantly reduce marine debris, particularly from land-based activities.
During the 34th ASEAN Summit held in Bangkok on 22 June 2019, the heads of states of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam, through the Bangkok Declaration, recommended an integrated land-to-sea approach to prevent and reduce marine debris. The Declaration also called for the strengthening of national laws and regulations, as well as enhancing regional and international cooperation, including on relevant policy dialogue and information sharing.
Dr. Lim said that marine pollution is a transboundary issue and its impact on marine biodiversity is already evident with the plastics being found ingested by migratory marine species that travel across seas in the ASEAN, and adjacent areas.
“The Declaration substantially contributes towards the achievement of Aichi Biodiversity Target 8, on bringing pollution to levels that are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity; and Strategic Goal C, on improving the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity. It requires regional efforts to combat marine debris, and considering that our rich marine biodiversity in the region contributes to food security, climate change mitigation, and increased disaster resiliency for the people of the ASEAN, the Declaration provides more impetus and guidance for the ACB and development partners to strengthen our efforts to support the ASEAN Member States and the region to help ensure that this sincere resolve is reflected in cross-sectoral policies, and operationalised and realised on the ground,” Dr. Lim explained. She added that the Declaration will be an excellent benchmark in crafting the ASEAN's contributions to the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
Dr. Lim said the Bangkok Declaration promotes mainstreaming of biodiversity and ecosystem conservation as it calls for coordination among ASEAN sectoral bodies to effectively address the multi-dimensional and far-reaching negative effects, as well as sources of marine debris pollution. The Declaration enhances the multi-stakeholder coordination and cooperation, including implementing joint actions and partnerships for addressing such challenge; and encourages private sector engagement and investment in preventing and reducing marine debris, including partnerships between public and private sector through various mechanisms and incentives.
The Bangkok Declaration also calls for the promotion of innovative solutions to enhance plastics value chains and improve resource efficiency by prioritising approaches such as 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle).
Dr. Lim cited the Bangkok Declaration for its call on strengthening research capacity and application of scientific knowledge to combat marine debris; accelerating advocacy and actions to increase public awareness and participation; and enhancing education for behavioural change toward preventing and reducing marine debris.
The Bangkok Declaration, Dr. Lim noted, demonstrates the complementarity of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint 2025 which promotes the protection, restoration and sustainable use of coastal and marine environment and responds and deals with the risk of pollution and threats to such ecosystems, with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, and its Target 14.1 which seeks, by 2025, to “prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution”.