On 20 October 2011, Iceland became the 45th Party to ratify the world’s most far-reaching treaty on environmental rights, the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
The Convention was adopted in Aarhus, Denmark, in June 1998 and signed by 39 European and Central Asian countries and the European Community. It entered into force on 30 October 2001. Its Parties now include the majority of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia and nearly all EU member States.
In his message to the Fourth Session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP 4), which was held from 29 June to 1 July 2011 in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon noted that “the Aarhus Convention is one of the major results of the Rio Declaration adopted at the first Earth Summit nearly 20 years ago”. He also acknowledged that, in view of the June 2012 Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the Aarhus Convention is, “more important than ever”. That is largely due to the twin emphasis placed on environment and human rights, which helps us in his own words, “involve the public”, “keep Governments accountable” and “respond to many challenges facing our world, from climate change and the loss of biodiversity to air and water pollution”.
The Parties to the Aarhus Convention are: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the European Community. According to Article 20 (3), the Convention enters into force for each State or organization referred to in Article 17 on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the State’s instrument of ratification, at which point it becomes a Party.
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