The future of ASEAN’s linear infrastructure development can be inclusive and resilient, new study shows

Posted on 23 June 2023


23 JUNE 2023, Thailand — Launched today at a multi-stakeholder event, a first-of-its-kind report proposes a holistic regulatory model for resilient and inclusive linear infrastructure development in ASEAN.


MAPPING PATHWAYS: Towards a Holistic Model for the Planning, Design, Approval, and Construction of Inclusive and Resilient Linear Infrastructure — Opportunities for Transition in the ASEAN Region outlines pathways towards minimizing environmental and social risks while reducing downstream costs, disaster risks, and potential community conflict, as well as maximizing the positive social benefits of individual projects.


The holistic model presented in the report focuses on strategies that encourage sustainability, resilience, and inclusivity, with an emphasis on strengthening regulatory arrangements. It offers concrete recommendations to ASEAN, national governments, project proponents and financial institutions, including multilateral development banks, as well as the development community


“The growing demand for linear infrastructure across the rapidly developing and interconnected ASEAN region gives us an opportunity to build in ways that factor in people, climate and biodiversity. This rising opportunity is also an imperative, as continuing to resort to the shortest, lowest-cost routes will only lead to greater environmental, social and economic costs in the short and long term. The report’s model charts a course to bring more voices to the table throughout all phases of the project lifecycle, demonstrating how linear infrastructure can meet the needs of its stakeholders while considering climate and biodiversity impacts. ASEAN is well poised to mainstream this holistic model, which brings various existing regulatory and voluntary measures together. It addresses one of the region’s greatest needs,” said Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, Member, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR).


While linear infrastructure development is a vital component of economic and social development, it presents significant risks to the environment and to local communities. Efforts to promote environmentally sustainable linear infrastructure have emphasized low-carbon approaches that minimize environmental and social impacts but do not fully consider resilient and inclusive infrastructure, including the role that nature-based solutions can play in addressing key societal challenges.


“The growing global recognition of the criticality of including Indigenous Peoples in decision-making must extend into the infrastructure arena too. Development that is supported and driven locally in a truly collaborative way results in benefits for all - securing livelihoods, safeguarding biodiversity and addressing climate change, said Paul Sein Twa, Co-founder, Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN).


Recognising the need for focused attention on linear infrastructure, the report calls for the establishment of domestic regulations that provide certainty for all stakeholders and that ensure coordination at all stages of the linear infrastructure project lifecycle, across all ASEAN member states.


“A resilient and inclusive approach to linear infrastructure development will lead to more robust and reliable infrastructure — strengthening connectivity, sustainable development, gender inclusivity, and climate resilience across the ASEAN region. By focusing on improving the ESG capacity of the private sector and affected stakeholders, we will ultimately be safeguarding future investments and securing our natural capital,” said Kate Lazarus, Senior ESG Advisory Regional Lead, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Asia Pacific.


The report presents essential guidance for ASEAN member states on how to integrate climate, biodiversity and human wellbeing goals, and to reconnect the linkages of inclusive development and intergenerational equity. It builds upon decades of experience and action by civil society organizations, development partners, multilateral organizations and international non-governmental organizations in linear infrastructure and provides a blueprint for reform in large-scale infrastructure planning.



For more information please contact:

Heron Holloway, Head of Communications and Advocacy, Asia-Pacific, WWF International <>


Download the report in full here 


Image for third-party use here.  


Spokespeople available upon request. 



Notes to Editor: 

  • Over 100 participants across 16 countries representing more than 70 different organizations attended the report launch event on 23 June 2023, including representatives from ASEAN bodies, government agencies, humanitarian organizations, human rights coalitions, legislative organizations, technical teams (social safeguards, climate and construction experts), academic institutions, multilateral development banks, and civil society organizations, among others. 
  • The report was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of USAID Mekong for the Future. The contents are the responsibility of WWF and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.
  • Infrastructure development is explicitly part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 9 is to “build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation” and includes targets and indicators for the construction of new roads and other linear infrastructure, especially in developing countries.
  • The study focuses on large-scale linear infrastructure that could have significant intrusions into key biodiversity areas, have other negative impacts on ecosystems, be vulnerable to natural disaster risks, and affect multiple communities.

About USAID Mekong for the Future 

Through the USAID Mekong for the Future, supported by USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia, WWF is working with communities in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand to support regional cooperation and address transboundary issues in the Lower Mekong region. By connecting local civil society with governments, researchers and practitioners, the project links practice to policy through evidence-based, community-led research and initiatives.



The Asian Research Institute for Environmental Law (ARIEL) was established in 2017 as a regional platform for the promotion of environmental law in Asia and the Pacific. Since 2020, it has organized the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Environmental Law Conference, which brings together experts and concerned stakeholders across the region on the various topics of environmental law. ARIEL has also cultivated an ASEAN-wide network for environmental lawyers, academics, and judges. ARIEL’s mission is to transform the environmental and social governance landscape in the Asia-Pacific region by creating a new paradigm of environmental justice firmly anchored in the environmental rule of law. ARIEL also prioritizes working with law councils, youth and student associations, environmental and human rights defenders, to provide opportunities for engagement and meaningful participation in the Institute’s activities. ARIEL operates from its hubs in Thailand, the Philippines and Australia.


About WWF

WWF is an independent conservation organization, with over 6 million supporters and a global network active in nearly 100 countries, working to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.