PanNature Discusses Public Participation and Environmental Impact Assessments with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Officials

During the morning of Friday, June 10, PanNature staff met with three government officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including U.S. EPA General Counsel, Avi Garbow; Senior Attorney in the Office of General Counsel, Steve Wolfson; as well as Director of the Office of Regional and Bilateral Affairs, Mark Kasman. The U.S. EPA is the lead government agency in protecting public health and the environment in the United States.

The meeting was an opportunity for the U.S. EPA officials to gain the perspectives and insights of a local environmental non-governmental organization in Vietnam. Trinh Le Nguyen, Executive Director of PanNature, provided information about PanNature, its various projects around the country, its funding, as well as relationships with PanNature’s partners, including the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

The main topic of discussion was existing challenges related to public participation in the environmental impact assessment process. PanNature’s policy team described the number of challenges that exist in Vietnam in terms of meaningful public participation. Public participation continues to lack a proper and comprehensive definition within Vietnam’s legal framework, and many continue to belief that public engagement slows down the investment process and therefore harms Vietnam’s ability to develop economically.

Furthermore, Vietnam continues to struggle with weak enforcement and implementation of laws, lack of an independent review in the environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment processes, lack of good, reliable data, as well as no meaningful nor effective minimum standard of technology used in factories and manufacturing. As part of a larger U.S. government initiative, the U.S. EPA is preparing environmental cooperation as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes the United States, Vietnam, and ten other member countries. This is the first of a more sustained effort by the U.S. EPA to work and cooperate with the government of Vietnam on various environmental issues.

While in Hanoi, General Counsel Avi Garbow gave a speech at the American Center as well as presentations at a Center for Environment and Community Research event and policy seminar hosted by the Department of Legal Affairs in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. PanNature was excited and grateful for the opportunity to host meaningful discussions in its Hanoi office. PanNature will continue to advocate for meaningful public participation and for the establishment of an independent review and monitoring mechanism in environmental matters.

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