The Fifteenth Meeting of the Working Group of the Parties to the Convention on Access on Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, known as Aarhus Convention
, met at the United Nations in Geneva from 3 to 5 September 2012. The Meeting, which brought together more than 100 delegates from governments and relevant stakeholders such as non-governmental and international organizations, international financial institutions (IFIs), academia, business and industry, featured a thematic session on promoting the application of the principles of the Convention in international fora.
At this session, the Parties reaffirmed their binding commitment to promote the application of the principles of the Convention in international fora dealing with matters relating to the environment. * They also sought to identify new target areas to promote the universal application of the Convention’s principles. The Meeting concentrated on three key issues: i) efforts by the Parties to promote public participation before, during and after the Rio +20 Conference
, ii) measures taken by Parties at the national level to systematically promote public participation in all international fora dealing with environmental matters, and iii) public participation in projects funded by IFIs.
During the session the civil society urged the Parties to remind the representatives of the IFIs taking part in the session, namely the World Bank, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank, of their obligation to apply the principles of the Aarhus Convention
in IFIs processes. Correspondingly, they exposed the weaknesses in implementation of IFIs commitments to foster greater transparency in environmental governance. In particular, they emphasized the need for major improvements in the release of information on environmental conditions included in IFIs projects and contracts, and more regular disclosure for environmental information, for example monitoring reports. Additionally, they stressed the need to strengthen the compliance mechanisms.
Furthermore, the Parties explored the future steps to improve participatory environmental governance. Specifically, the participants agreed to promote principles of the Aarhus Convention in initiatives resulting from the outcomes of Rio+20, particularly the new high-level forum on sustainable development and the strengthening of UNEP. Besides, they decided to set up national action plans to systematically promote Convention principles in all international environmental fora. Within this context, the Parties committed to take effective measures individually and collectively with other Governments to enact the principle of broad stakeholder participation in the framework of IFIs processes.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that the Working Group Meeting featured a web link-up with the Government of Chile and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean, which presented 10 Latin America countries’ initiatives to establish a legal instrument of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration for the Latin American region. The meeting also heard a presentation by the Green Access Project of Japan, which seeks to identify appropriate models of public participation for protecting the environment and creating a sustainable society in Japan.
* While the Aarhus Convention primarily addresses issues at the national level, its Parties have committed themselves, through article 3, paragraph 7, of the Convention, to promote the application of the principles of the Convention in international environmental decision-making processes and within the framework of international organizations in matters relating to the environment.
At their second meeting (Almaty, 25-27 May 2005), the Parties adopted, through decision II/4 , a set of guidelines on promoting the principles of access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in international fora dealing with matters relating to the environment. The primary purpose of these guidelines, known as the "Almaty Guidelines", is to provide general guidance to Aarhus Parties. They may also be of wider interest to those involved in fora that deal with environmental matters.
At their fourth meeting (Chisinau, 29 June-1 July 2011), the Parties adopted decision IV/3 on promoting the principles of the Convention in international fora. In that decision, Parties agreed that significant work still remained to be done to implement article 3, paragraph 7 of the Convention and to continue the work on promoting the application of the principles of the Convention in international fora directly under the authority of the Working Group of the Parties.
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