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The Aarhus & Espoo Conventions Making implementation work for stakeholders.

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Presentation on theme: "The Aarhus & Espoo Conventions Making implementation work for stakeholders."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Aarhus & Espoo Conventions Making implementation work for stakeholders

2 The Aarhus Convention UNECE Convention on (3 pillars:) 1. Access to Information, 2. Public Participation in Decision-making and 3. Access to Justice in Environmental Matters Adopted in 1998, in force since 2001 43 Parties at present, Romania Party since 2000 Protocol on Pollutant Release & Transfer Registers Adopted in 2003, entry into force 8 October 2009 23 Parties at present, Romania Party since Aug.’09 Both open to accession by non-ECE countries

3 The Espoo Convention UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context Adopted in 1991, in force since 1997 43 Parties at present, Romania Party since 2001 Not (yet) open to accession by non-ECE countries Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Adopted in 2003, not in force (5 ratifications needed) Romania is a Signatory, has not yet ratified Open to accession by non-ECE countries

4 Interplay between Aarhus & Espoo Aarhus: Guarantees public participation in decision-making on environmental matters Applicable to (EIA) decisions on the national level Transboundary applicability only through non- discrimination principle (Art. 3.9)  Gives public of any State rights under Aarhus Convention (public participation, access to information & justice) in any country that is a Party to the Aarhus Convention

5 Interplay between Aarhus & Espoo Espoo: Applicable in transboundary context, but only to Parties to the Espoo Convention Also guarantees public consultation & taking due account of public comments (Articles 3,4,6) Access to information & justice are connected to effective public consultation  interpretation: all 3 Aarhus pillars are relevant to Espoo Convention

6 Relevance of the Protocols Protocol on PRTRs aims to improve access to environmental information Use of electronic information tools SEA Protocol aims to facilitate early involvement of stakeholders Promotes application of user-friendly consultation techniques, suitable for the target groups Transboundary scope, non-discrimination principle (Article 3.7)

7 Monitoring implementation Espoo: Secretariat publishes report on implementation (2008) Cases brought before Implementation Committee Aarhus: National reports on implementation submitted by Parties every 3 years to Meeting of the Parties (highest decision-making body under the Convention) Synthesis report prepared by secretariat Cases brought before Compliance Committee

8 Improving implementation UNECE secretariats not experts on legislation of individual countries transposing Conventions Serve to collect information relevant for broad range of countries Sharing information useful for national implementation and transposition of Conventions & EU Directives Legislators, policy makers, legal professionals and members of the public can use information in concrete, practical way at the national level, as a tool to improve implementation and transposition

9 Improving implementation Implementation of the public participation pillar of the Aarhus Convention found to be insufficient during first 10 years since adoption 2008: Meeting of the Parties of Aarhus Convention established Expert Group on Public Participation First meeting PPEG: summer 2009 Problems, challenges and solutions discussed

10 Public participation: Problems Legislative developments have taken place in many countries, but implementing regulations often missing Need for common definition / consistent interpretation of ‘the public concerned’ When to provide public participation in multiple decision- making processes Lack of control over level & quality of public participation No detailed provisions on notification of the public  often not performed adequately Standing criteria for NGOs narrowed

11 Public participation: Problems Lack of reasonable timeframes for public participation Lack of public participation in an early stage Incomplete or inaccessible information Absence of legislation to implement article 6, paras 5, 9 and 10, and to regulate public participation procedures under articles 6, 7 and 8, including: – Early participation – Procedures for taking due account of the outcomes of public participation – Provision of information on how public comments were taken into account

12 Public participation: Problems ECOForum Survey among NGOs in UNECE region: National legislative frameworks seen as more or less adequate with respect to articles 6 and 7, and as inadequate with respect to article 8. Implementation of laws and other government actions to provide public participation mostly considered inadequate Effectiveness of laws and government efforts for public participation mostly considered highly inadequate

13 Public participation: Solutions Achieve consensus on definitions of public participation Commitment of authorities to actively involve the public Clear administrative procedures and legal structures Broad interpretation of ‘the public concerned’ Involve public early and incorporate concerns at the start of drafting process for a plan, programme or policy, e.g. through roundtables Notify public through multiple means of communication Adjust communication to fit target groups

14 Public participation: Solutions Provide reasonable timeframes, particularly for the submission of public comments Provide balanced information, addressing different aspects of an issue Actively inform interested groups Take due account of public comments: review, discuss, evaluate comments and take them into consideration Report how and why comments were (not) incorporated Facilitation of public participation process by third party

15 Public participation: Good practice Austria: Council of Ministers adopted ‘Standards of Public Participation’ – recommendations (2008) Ireland: public participation at 2 levels in Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA). Informal public consultation (not necessarily publicly advertised or all-inclusive) takes place during screening RIA – potential environmental impacts of proposed regulations are examined. If negative impacts are identified, a full RIA must be conducted with a formal public consultation.

16 Building Capacity: Aarhus Centres Aarhus Centres established with support of OSCE Centres for information exchange and dissemination Outreach to public, target groups Facilitation of meetings Can serve as third party to mediate between public authorities and civil society

17 UNECE guides on implementation Espoo secretariat published ‘Guidance on Public Participation under the Espoo Convention’ (2006) Aarhus secretariat published ‘Aarhus Convention Implementation Guide’ (2000, currently developing an updated version),, and‘Guidance on Implementation of the Protocol on PRTRs’ (2008)

18 In conclusion Implementation = not perfect Need to keep working towards improvement Even when adequate legislation in place, weaknesses remain in guaranteeing their effectiveness in reality of people’s lives & environment Keep dialogue going between actors (legislators, law enforcement, NGOs, public, international organisations) Keep open mind, respect each point of view Foster attitude of continuous search for progress

19 Final thought Questions from student: Why do we have Conventions on public participation in environmental decision-making? Why would we need a Convention on public participation in general? Shouldn’t public participation be integrated in decision- making as a standard practice, in all policy areas – the same way gender issues are being integrated in decision-making across the board?

20 Thank you for your attention!

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