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Public participation

Public Participation in the EIA Convention and SEA Protocol

The public and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have a vital role to play in the development, implementation and support of the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (the EIA Convention) and its Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (the SEA Protocol).

Decision II/3 of the Second Meeting of the Parties to the EIA Convention highlights some of the values of public participation in EIA in a transboundary context: Public participation in EIA in a transboundary context will help to:

  • Improve relations between peoples and countries, and prevent transboundary environmental conflicts
  • Develop civil society and democracy in the countries of the ECE region
  • Promote the timely disclosure of relevant information to participants in the environmental decision- making process
  • Make people understand and respect the final decisions on projects
  • Give an insight into environmental protection and long-term environmental problems

These values are equally valid for SEA and the Protocol recognizes this in the Preamble ("Conscious, therefore, of the importance of providing for public participation in the strategic environmental assessment"). Indeed, the "overall objectives of participation in SEA differ little from those in the later project-related EIA stages, i.e. legitimacy and efficiency".[1] One example of how SEA may increase efficiency is by resolving public concerns once at the plan or programme level, for infrastructure development say, rather than repeatedly at the subsequent project (road or railway line EIA) level.

The public and NGOs can be involved through:

  • participating in the environmental assessment of projects having transboundary impacts, under the EIA Convention
  • participating in the environmental assessment of plans and programmes (and perhaps policies and legislation), under the SEA Protocol once it is in force
  • encouraging their government to ratify and implement fully the Convention and Protocol

The third meeting of the Parties to the Convention adopted guidelines on public participation in transboundary EIA.

Document Title

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Guidelines on public participation in transboundary EIA
ECE/MP.EIA/7

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The Espoo Convention: transboundary environmental impact assessment --- a practical guide for citizens and NGOs - booklet prepared by Andriy Andrusevych for European EcoForum (4.7 MB)

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Public Participation in Strategic Environmental Decisions: Guide for Environmental Citizens Organizations - pamphlet prepared by Svitlana Kravchenko for European EcoForum (1 MB)

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- without cover

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Aarhus Convention's environmental democracy clearing house

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The Convention's provisions for public participation

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The Protocol's provisions for public participation

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Help topics

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[1] Petts, J. 1999. Public Participation and Environmental Impact Assessment. In J. Petts, ed., 1999, Handbook of Environmental Impact Assessment. Blackwells, Oxford, UK.


© United Nations Economic Commissions for Europe – 2013