Non-Aligned Movement has emphasised the importance of measures to ensure the sustainable management of marine biodiversity and ecosystems. This entails a protection of the marine ecosystems. Marine debris has emerged as a major environmental challenge. ASEAN, whose Member States are also part of NAM, is concerned with pollution by marine debris and therefore pushing for a better understanding of the issues.

The Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in the ASEAN Region and the ASEAN Framework of Action on Marine Debris are the two major frameworks through which ASEAN aims to combat the environmental problem of marine debris. The Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in ASEAN Region was signed at the 34th ASEAN Summit held in Bangkok in June 2019. The Bangkok Declaration is in line with the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, particularly the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2025 on Conservation and Sustainable Management of Biodiversity and Natural Resources which reaffirmed the commitment of strategic measures to “promote cooperation for the protection, restoration and sustainable use of coastal and marine environment, respond and deal with the risk of pollution and threats to marine ecosystem and coastal environment, in particular in respect of ecologically sensitive areas”.

The Bangkok Declaration reiterates the common aspiration of the ASEAN Member States to implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14: 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”.

The Bangkok Declaration calls for actions at the national level as well as through collaborative actions among the ASEAN Member States and partners to prevent and significantly reduce marine debris, particularly from land-based activities, including environmentally sound management. It encourages an integrated land-to-sea approach to prevent and reduce marine debris, and strengthen national laws and regulations as well as enhance regional and international cooperation including on relevant policy dialogue and information sharing. The Bangkok Declaration calls for innovative solutions to enhance plastics value chains and improve resource efficiency by prioritising approaches such as circular economy and 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle), and welcoming capacity building and exchange of best practices among ASEAN Member States as well as support from external partners in this regard.

ASEAN Framework of Action on Marine Debris is another major ASEAN initiative to address the problem of marine pollution. The ASEAN Framework of Action on Marine Debris was developed to act on the recommendations from the ASEAN Conference on Reducing Marine Debris in ASEAN Region in Phuket in November 2017. The Framework comprises four priority areas namely: 1) Policy Support and Planning; 2) Research, Innovation, and Capacity Building; 3) Public Awareness, Education, and Outreach; and 4) Private Sector Engagement. Each priority area consists of actions and suggested activities for further collaboration in ASEAN region and among ASEAN and its partners in combating marine debris.

ASEAN Member States are implementing to achieve the objectives outlined in the above framework. For example, in Thailand, the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for Plastic and Waste Management, or PPP Plastic, was established on June 5, 2018, by the Plastic Industry Club and the Federation of Thai Industries, in partnership with the Thailand Business Council for Sustainable Development (TBCSD), organizations from the public and private sectors, and members of society.

PPP Plastic aims to reduce marine plastic debris by at least 50% by 2027 through solutions such as sustainable waste management, the Circular Economy, and applying the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle).

Malaysia has announced the establishment of a marine debris policy which will be aligned with the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in the ASEAN Region and the ASEAN Framework of Action on Marine Debris.

By Dr. Ankit Srivastava

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