Asia is the most economically dynamic region in the world, yet it is home to two-thirds of the world’s poor. While this impressive economic progress has raised 270 million people out of poverty, it has triggered a decline in Asia’s natural capital – shrinking forests, declining biodiversity, disappearing water sources, and barren lands. Exploitation of natural resources, industrial production, and urbanization continue to pose serious environmental challenges.

In response, Asian countries have developed an array of environmental laws and judicial decisions that seek to implement international principles, including the principle of sustainable development. Enforcement of the resulting legal requirements, however, remains weak and uneven, due in part to limitations in financial resources and in human and institutional capacity.

To overcome these limitations, many Asian governments have introduced innovative mandatory and voluntary approaches that leverage market and community forces, and are less resource-intensive than traditional command-and-control approaches. These innovative approaches also promote voluntary compliance by educating and assisting the regulated community, and providing opportunities to publicize good corporate citizenship.

To share experience related to these efforts, Asian governments and donor partners established the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network (AECEN), which works to promote improved compliance with environmental legal requirements through the demonstration and regional exchange of innovative policies and practices ( AECEN Members include national or sub-national environmental agencies (EA) in Asia responsible for identifying, monitoring, and correcting non-compliance with environmental laws and other requirements.

As one Network activity, the AECEN Secretariat facilitated the development of regional principles that guide EAs in strengthening their enforcement and compliance programs. Based on a consultative process with Members and other experts, the resulting principles presented here reflect national experiences in Asia, and worldwide. In applying these principles, AECEN Members and other agencies should develop courses of action based on their own legal and institutional frameworks, developmental policies and priorities, and available resources.

In framing these principles, AECEN relied in part on two documents that also address principles of environmental enforcement: Principles of Environmental Enforcement of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (1992), and the Guiding Principles for Reform of Environmental Enforcement Authorities in Transition Economies of Easter Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia (2003) prepared by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Funding support for the development of the principles was provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) under TA 6234 and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under USAID contract 486-C-00-05-00010-00.