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News in brief

2012

UNECE welcomes the ratification of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the Aarhus Convention by Poland

As of 25 September 2012, Poland has become the thirtieth Party to ratify the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Poland has been actively engaged in the activities under the Aarhus Convention and PRTR Protocol and has contributed to the promotion of the principles of these two legal instruments both within and beyond the ECE region as, for example, demonstrated by the participation of the Polish Ministry of the Environment at the advisory mission to Ulan Bator, Mongolia, (25–26 April 2012) organized at the invitation of the Government of Mongolia following its expression of interest in acceding to the Convention promote the Aarhus Convention in Mongolia.

This ratification is timely as it comes shortly before the second Working Group of the Parties to the PRTR Protocol, scheduled to take place in Geneva on 20-21 November 2012. The meeting is expected to review a number of issues, including the progress in implementing the Protocol's work programme and the global promotion of the Protocol. The Working Group of the Parties will also discuss capacity building activities and technical assistance on the basis of survey results that were circulated to national focal points and stakeholders earlier this year.

UNECE welcomes ratification by Ireland of the Aarhus Convention, its amendment on genetically modified organisms and its Protocol on PRTRs

As of 20 June 2012, Ireland has become the latest country to ratify 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) and its amendment on genetically modified organisms. This action raises the total number of Parties to the Convention to 46 and the Parties to the amendment to 27. Ireland also became the twenty-ninth Party to the Convention’s Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers.

Commenting from Rio, where he is attending the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio+20), Sven Alkalaj, the UNECE Executive Secretary, “warmly welcomed” Ireland’s ratification and drew attention to its relevance for the Rio Principles: “The Aarhus Convention and its Protocol are the world’s only international legally binding instruments enshrining Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration”, he said, observing that the ratification by Ireland “symbolically coincides with the twentieth anniversary of Principle 10”. Looking to the future, Mr. Alkalaj noted that “the Aarhus Convention’s powerful twin protections for the environment and human rights can help us respond to many challenges facing our world, from climate change and the loss of biodiversity to air and water pollution. Ultimately, these instruments provide the groundwork for building sustainable green economies and more stable, secure and inclusive societies.”

Phil Hogan, Irish Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government said that his objective was “to make Ireland an environmental leader. Ratification of the Aarhus Convention will be another stepping stone to this goal.”

This ratification acts as a reminder of the continuing relevance and universal importance of Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration adopted by 178 Governments which calls for access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.  

Ireland demonstrated its good will through supporting activities under the Convention even before the ratification and it has provided chairmanship to the Task Force on Public Participation in Decision-making, one of the most challenging areas of the Convention’s work.

Laying the groundwork for Mongolia to join the Aarhus Convention

At the invitation of the Head of the Office of the President of Mongolia, UNECE organized a mission to Ulaanbaatar on 25 and 26 April 2012. The mission sought to encourage Mongolia to act on its interest in acceeding to the Aarhus Convention, by promoting a better understanding of the benefits and opportunities offered by the Convention's framework. During high-level consultations, the President expressed his appreciation for the mission and demonstrated his keen interest to continue Mongolia's efforts to accede to the Convention. Statements, reaffirming strong support for the country's accession were also made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Minister of Nature, Environment and Tourism and the Head of the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia.

The mission was led by the Chair of the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention, and also counted representatives from Italy, Kazakhstan, Norway and Poland, who shared the experience of their countries in implementing the Aarhus Convention and provided useful advice on further steps and actions needed in ratifying and implementing it. The Chair underscored that, in the lead up to the Rio+20 Conference, Mongolia could “send an important message on the continuing relevance of Principle 10” and could “offer a reminder of the universal application of the principles of the Aarhus Convention”, adding that “the endorsement of transparent, consensual, participatory decisionmaking demonstrates a commitment to build a stable and secure society, which in the long term can become economically prosperous and environmentally and socially sustainable”.

A series of multi-stakeholder and bilateral meetings held during the mission provided the opportunity to exchange views and information on emerging environmental and social-economic issues and concerns, such as environmental impact assessment in the mining sector, access to information related to permits and licences and access to justice and international dispute settlement. Some 100 participants were invited to the multistakeholder consultations, which also involved the Head of the Office of the President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Minister of Nature Environment and Tourism, officers from ministries responsible for mining and urban development, the Head of the Human Rights Commission of Mongolia, advisers to the President, parliamentarians, civil society (including from rural areas throughout the country), the private sector, independent experts and international organizations. The consultations featured open debates on the matters related to access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters with a view to their role in mitigating health and environmental risks generated by the exploitation of Mongolia's natural resources. Most Government officials and representatives of the Parliament and NGOs from the capital met during the mission supported accession to the Aarhus Convention, as they saw the empowerment of people as an important tool to protect the nature and the Convention as a tool for ensuring the sustainable development of Mongolia's economy.

As the consultations began, a representative of Mongolia's nomadic rural population noted: “the twenty-fifth of April is the day of Dragon. The Day of Dragon in the year of Dragon brings luck”. Let's hope that the mission will help Mongolia to pursue its path towards sustainable future.

2011

Aarhus Convention Membership reaches 45: Iceland ratifies far-reaching environmental rights treaty

As of 20 October 2011, Iceland has become the latest country to ratify 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. This action raises the total number of Parties to the Convention to 45. 

The Aarhus Convention is the world’s most far-reaching treaty on environmental rights. It seeks to promote greater transparency and accountability among Government bodies by guaranteeing public rights of access to environmental information, providing for public involvement in environmental decision-making and requiring the establishment of procedures enabling the public to challenge environmental decisions. 

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 in October 2001. Its Parties now include most of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia and nearly all EU member States. 

In his message to the recent Meeting of the Parties to the Convention held in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, recalled that “the Aarhus Convention is one of the major results of the Rio Declaration adopted at the first Earth Summit nearly 20 years ago”. In view of the forthcoming Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012, the Aarhus Convention is, in the words of the Secretary-General, “more important than ever”, particularly because its twin emphasis on environment and human rights helps us “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”.

Note to Editors 

The Parties to the 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. Article 20 of the Convention states that the Convention enters into force for a State on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the State’s instrument of ratification, at which point it becomes a Party.

 

2009  

Outcome of the twenty-sixth Compliance Committee meeting

Montenegro accedes to Aarhus, becoming Convention's 44th Party

Montenegro has ratified the Aarhus Convention, depositing its instrument of accession to the UN Secretary-General on 2November. Montenegro is set to become the 44th party to the Convention on 31 January 2010.

The Convention was opened for accession to any Member State of the United Nations on 28 December 1998, under article 19.

Article 20 of the Convention states that the Convention shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of a State’s instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

For the map of Parties and Signatories to the Convention, see the Status of Ratifications web page.

Protocol becomes international law, Portugal ratifies treaty

The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the UNECE Aarhus Convention, adopted in May 2003 in Kiev, entered into force on 8 October 2009.

Sixteen countries and the European Community which had already deposited their instruments of ratification with the United Nations Secretary-General became Parties to the treaty upon its entry into force. By year end, a total of 21 countries are set to become Parties to the treaty.

Ms. Asha-Rose Migiro, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, said the Protocol “marks a milestone in the advancement towards environmental democracy. The Protocol counts 38 Signatories and 21 ratifications in the UNECE region, but many other countries are applying its right-to-know principles and developing pollutant release and transfer registers.”

On the day of its entry into force, Portugal deposited its instrument of ratification, the 22nd country to do so.

The Protocol will help identify the biggest polluters in communities across Europe, including those spewing greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.

Czech Republic deposits ratification of Protocol

The Czech Republic deposited its instrument of ratification of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers with the Secretary-General in New York on 12 August 2009, making it the 18th Member State and 19th Party to ratify the Protocol.

The Depository Notification from the Secretary-General announcing the Czech Republic's ratification was issued but not communicated to the UNECE secretariat, nor reflected on the UN Treaty Section webpages, due to an interruption in service caused by the transfer of UN Office of Legal Affairs offices during the week of the deposit.

The secretariat apologizes to the Czech Republic for this oversight.

Spain ratifies the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers

Spain has joined the growing list of countries having ratified the Protocol on PRTRs to the Aarhus Convention. Spain deposited its instrument of ratification with the UN Secretary-General in New York on 24 September 2009, the 22nd Party to do so.

The Protocol will take effect on 8 October 2009, having crossed the threshold of the minimum number of Parties to trigger entry into force on 10 July 2009.

Earlier this year, Spain released its first annual national PRTR reports.

Romania and United Kingdom ratify the Protocol

Romania become the 20th to join the Protocol on Popllutant Release and Transfer Registers, depositing its instrument of ratification with the UN Secretary-General on 26 August. The deposit followed United Kingdom's ratification of the Protocol on 31 July.

The Protocol will take effect on 8 October 2009.

Serbia becomes the 43rd Party to the Aarhus Convention

The Republic of Serbia has ratified the Aarhus Convention, depositing its instrument of accession to the UN Secretary-General on 31 July 2009. Serbia is set to become the 43rd party to the Convention on 29 October.

The Convention was opened for accession to any Member State of the United Nations on 28 December 1998, under article 19.

Article 20 of the Convention states that the Convention shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of a State’s instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers picks up two new ratifications, is set to enter into force

The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the UNECE Aarhus Convention, signed by 36 governments and the European Community in May 2003 in Kiev, Ukraine, is set to enter into force on 8 October 2009 following France’s ratification, which was deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General on 10 July.

Pollutant release and transfer registers are inventories of pollutants from industrial sites, but also smaller, widespread sources such as traffic, agriculture and small and medium-sized enterprises. Under the Protocol, facilities will be required to report annually on the amounts of certain pollutants they release to the environment or transfer to other facilities. The information will then be placed on a public register accessible through the Internet.

The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers will help identify the biggest polluters in communities across Europe. The Protocol also covers facilities releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases known to contribute to global warming and thus offers a new tool to countries battling climate change.

In the past, public disclosure of information about pollutant releases has led companies to improve their environmental performance. Citizens in countries requiring industries to report on their releases and transfers of significant pollutants will therefore wield a powerful tool in the fight for a cleaner and safer environment.

Jan Kubiš, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, described this new international law as “a milestone in the advancement of public access to information about sources of environmental pollution in the UNECE region”.

Hungary ratified the Protocol on 13 July and the United Kingdom ratified it on 31 July, becoming the 18th and 19th parties to the instrument.

Agreement reached on scope of work for task force on public participation

Parties to the Convention reached agreement on the scope of work for the future Task Force on Public Participation in Environmental Decision-making, during the final day of their Working Group meeting (Geneva, 8-10 July 2009). They ended an impasse over how the new task force would tackle themes related to public participation set out in the Strategic Plan 2009-2014.

At the third Meeting of the Parties, Parties decided to establish a task force on public participation as soon as possible, or no later than the fourth Meeting of the Parties, scheduled to be held in 2011 in Chisinau, Moldova.

The agreement reached by the Working Group means the new task force could be established at an extraordinary Meeting of the Parties, which will be convened in April 2010.

Albania accepts Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers

Albania has accepted the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers. Albania's action was effected on 16 June 2009, through deposit of its instrument of acceptance to the UN Secretary-General. It is the 15th Member State of the United Nations to take action aimed at bringing the Protocol into force as international law.

Counting the European Community's ratification, the Protocol has a total of 16 ratifications. A single additional ratification by a Member State will trigger the Protocol's entry into force, following a 90-day period.

The Working Group on PRTRs expects to schedule the first meeting of the Parties to the Protocol in early 2010.

Belgium and United Kingdom ratify the GMO amendment

Belgium and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have deposited with the UN Secretary-General their instruments of ratification of the amendment on the deliberate release to the market of genetically modified organisms, raising the number of ratifications of the amendment to 22. The actions were effected, respectively, on 1 May 2009 (UK) and 16 June 2009 (Kingdom of Belgium).

International conference in Dushanbe promotes ratification of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers

An international conference aimed at helping Central Asian countries with ratification of the Protocol on PRTR to the Aarhus Convention was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, from 20 to 21 May 2009.

More than 50 participants, including representatives from governments, Aarhus Centres in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan and the NGO community attended the conference. International experts from the UNECE secretariat, Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC), Belarus and Belgium also attended the event.

Ivan Narkevitch (Belarus) commented that "the conference helped the countries of the EECCA [Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia] region to assess and understand the real needs and importance to accede to the PRTR Protocol as soon as possible and set up systems for its implementation at national, regional and international levels." Mr. Narkevitch is a member of the Bureau to the Aarhus Convention.

The Conference was organized by the European Union-supported TACIS project on implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Central Asia, in cooperation with State Committee on Environmental Protection of the Republic of Tajikistan, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office of the Coordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities, the OSCE Office in Tajikistan, the Aarhus Centre Dushanbe and UNECE. Promoting development of pollutant registers under the Protocol was one of the five main objectives of the EU Central Asian project.

Finland accepts Protocol on PRTRs

Finland has become the latest country to ratify the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, the 14th Member State of the United Nations to do so. Finlan's action was effected on 21 April 2009, through deposit of its instrument of acceptance to the UN Secretary-General.

Counting the European Community's ratification, the Protocol has a total of 15 ratifications. Just two additional ratifications by Member States are needed to bring about the Protocol's entry into force.

Belgium and Lithuania ratify the Protocol on PRTRs

Belgium and Lithuania have ratified the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, becoming the 13th and 14th Parties to the instrument, respectively. Lithuania's action was effected on 5 March 2009; Belgium's action was effected on 12 March 2009.

The Protocol will only enter into force after receiving its 16th ratification, approval, acceptance or accession by member States of the United Nations. The European Community's approval of the Protocol does not count toward achieving this threshold of ratifications needed to bring about the entry into force.

So far, a total of fourteen member States or regional economic integration organizations of the UNECE have ratified the Protocol, thirteen of which count toward entry into force of the instrument. Three more member State ratifications are needed to bring about the treaty's entry into force.

Netherlands accepts and Poland ratifies the GMO amendment

Poland and the Netherlands have deposited their respective instruments of ratification or acceptance of the amendment on the deliberate release to the market of genetically modified organism with the UN Secretary-General, raising the number of ratifications of the amendment to 20. The actions were effected on 23 February 2009 by the Netherlands (for the Kingdom in Europe) and 23 March 2009 by Poland.

Guidance on Implementation of the Protocol released in Russian

The secretariat has released an electronic version of the Guidance on Implementation of the Protocol on PRTRs, in advance of official publication of the document in Russian. The Russian text can be downloaded in MS Word format from the Protocol's Capacity-building and Publications/Guidance webpages.

This advanced version in Russian contains the complete text of the Guidance published in English in June 2008; however, graphs contained in the English version are not included in document.

Several Member States' delegations had requested the advanced version in Russian to support national efforts to build capacity for implementation of the Protocol.

The publication may be reproduced in whole or in parts and in any form for education or non-profit purposes, provided acknowledgement of the source is made. It is expected that several Member States will translate and reproduce the Guidance in their national languages.

Aarhus Centres develop road map

A regional meeting of Aarhus Centres, held from 22 to 23 January 2009, drafted a Road Map to guide the Centres' efforts to strengthen implementation of the Convention. The meeting was organized by Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities at the headquarters of the OSCE in Vienna.

Aarhus Convention National Focal Points and Aarhus Centre Managers from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan came together to share experience, best practices and challenges in putting the Aarhus Convention into practice. They were joined by the Convention Secretariat, OSCE field and Secretariat representatives and several leading experts in this field.

The outcomes of the Third Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention and the recommendations of the Independent Evaluation of Aarhus Centres (2008) commissioned by OSCE provided guidance to the deliberations. The primary outcome of the meeting is a Road Map for Aarhus Centres for the coming years. The meeting also considered ways of strengthening environmental information networks in the UNECE region.

2008  

Italy ratifies the amendment on GMOs

The amendment on public participation in decision-making on release to the market of genetically modified organisms moved a step closer to entry into force as Italy became the eighteenth Party to deposit its instrument of ratification of the amendment with the UN Secretary-General in New York. Italy's action was effected on 17 December 2008.

Three and a half years after its adoption, the amendment still needs 10 additional ratifications to bring about its entry into force.

The Role of Information in an Age of Climate Change: An International Conference to Mark the 10th Anniversary of the Aarhus Convention  

The 10th Anniversary Aarhus Conference will address the role of public access to environmental science-based information and public participation in decision-making on climate policy that are crucial to local, regional and global success of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the “New Delhi Work Programme”.

The University of Aarhus is hosting the Conference on 1314 November 2008 as part of a series of events leading up to the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, which will be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Programme of the Aarhus Convention on Climate Change

Denmark and Sweden ratify the Protocol on PRTRs, Greenland and the Faroe Islands excluded  

Denmark and Sweden have ratified the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, having deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN Secretary-General on 13 and 15 October 2008, respectively.

Exercising its rights stated at the time of its Signature of the instrument, Denmark also declared upon ratification that “until further notice, the Protocol shall not apply to Greenland and the Faroe Islands.”

Greenland and the Faroe Islands are self-governing under Denmark's Home Rule Act, which implies that environmental affairs in general and affairs covered by the Protocol are governed by the right of self-determination.

The Protocol will only enter into force after receiving its sixteenth ratification, approval, acceptance or accession by member States of the United Nations. The European Community's approval of the Protocol does not count toward achieving this threshold of ratifications needed to bring about the entry into force.

So far, a total of twelve member States or regional economic integration organizations of the UNECE have ratified the Protocol, eleven of which count toward entry into force of the instrument. Five more member State ratifications are needed to bring the treaty into force.

Bosnia and Herzegovina joins the Aarhus Convention  

Bosnia and Herzegovina is set to become the 42nd Party to the Aarhus Convention, having deposited its instrument of accession to the treaty with the UN Secretary-General on 1 October 2008. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the sixth member State to have joined the Convention through accession.

Under article 20 of the treaty, the Convention will enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date fo the deposit of a State's instrument of accession.The Convention will enter into force in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 30 December 2008.

Croatia ratifies the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers  

Croatia has ratified the Protocol on PRTRs, the ninth Party to the Aarhus Convention to do so. It deposited its instrument of ratification with the UN Secretary-General on 14 July 2008.

The Protocol will only enter into force after receiving its sixteenth ratification, approval, acceptance or accession by member States of the United Nations.

Under article 27 of the Protocol, any instrument deposited by a regional economic integration organization is not counted as additional to those deposited by States which are members of such an organization. The European Community's approval of the Protocol on 21 February 2006 does not, therefore, count toward achieving the threshold of sixteen ratifications needed to bring about entry into force of the Protocol.

So far, a total of ten member States or regional economic integration organizations of the UNECE have ratified the instrument. Switzerland is the only Party to the Protocol which has not also ratified the Aarhus Convention.

Romania ratifies the GMO amendment

The amendment on public participation in decision-making on deliberate release to the market of genetically modified organisms (GMO) has gained its seventeenth Party. Romania deposited its instrument of ratification with the UN Secretary-General in New York on 29 August 2008.

Norway approves Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers  

Norway submitted its approval of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the UN Secretary-General on 27 June 2008. The action has the force of a ratification and pushes the total number of Parties to the Protocol to nine, eight from member States of the UNECE.

Sixteen member States' ratifications must be deposited to bring about the instrument's entry into force.

Special feature: Aarhus Convention celebrates 10th anniversary  

The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matter celebrates its 10th anniversary today. It was adopted by forty governments and the European Community in Aarhus, Denmark, on the 25th June 1998 at the Fourth Ministerial Conference in the 'Environment for Europe' process.

The Aarhus Convention is unique among multilateral environmental agreements in the extent to which it promotes citizens’ environmental rights. Its core principles – the right to information, the right to participate and the right to seek access to justice – empower ordinary members of the public to hold governments accountable and to play a greater role in promoting more sustainable forms of development.

The Convention put in place legally binding norms which give the public a major new role in decisions impacting the environment at all levels, global, national and local. It opens Governments to inspection and participation by grassroots communities in a way no other legal agreement has done before.

Impressive progress has been made during the ten years since the Convention’s adoption. After a remarkably quick entry into force in October 2001, efforts to lay the foundation for the work under the Convention were made by the Parties and Signatories, with the strong support of civil society organizations, at the first meeting of the Parties, held in Lucca, Italy, in October 2002.

The adoption of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers at the Kiev Ministerial ‘Environment for Europe’ Conference in May 2003 was another important milestone.

At the second meeting of the Parties, held in Almaty in May 2005, the long-running discussions on how the Convention should address the issue of genetically modified organisms were brought to a successful conclusion with the adoption of an amendment which will expand the possibilities for the public to participate in decision-making in this hotly-debated area.

The meeting also saw the adoption of the Almaty Guidelines on Promoting the Application of the Principles of the Aarhus Convention in International Forums. The Guidelines have already provided the basis for a dialogue between the Convention bodies and other interested international forums on how to involve representatives of civil society in international processes. The meeting further adopted recommendations on electronic information tools which solidified the Parties’ commitment to mobilize Information and Communication Technology – notably the Internet – to promote informed participation in decision-making on the environment.

With 40 ECE member States now Party to the Convention, and the European Community itself also a Party, the standards established by the Convention now prevail throughout much of the region.

Aside from these distinct milestones, the greatest achievement of the Convention, and the real measure of its value, concerns the changes it has brought about on the ground.

The assumption that anything that is not public is secret has been widely replaced by the assumption that anything that is not secret is public. Participatory democracy is increasingly seen as a basic right, whose realization enriches the quality of decision-making and reduces alienation among communities through creating a sense of involvement.

So, there is much to celebrate on this tenth anniversary. However, many challenges remain. Implementation of the provisions of the Convention concerning access to justice, and to some extent public participation, continues to be more problematic than the implementation of those concerning access to information.

What is distinctive about the Aarhus Convention is that it provides a role for the public in identifying whether such problems exist.

While in legal terms the Convention, like any international treaty, is an agreement between sovereign governments, in political terms it has some of the characteristics of a contract between governments and civil society. If a Party is in breach of its obligations, it is generally not another Party that suffers but rather members of the public, and in this context, it makes sense that the views of the public on the degree of success or failure in implementation should be heard.

There is also a widely held view that the benefits of the Convention could and should be enjoyed in more countries. The Convention may serve as an inspiration not only in other regions but also in other subject areas with a parallel interest in transparency, public participation and democratization.

Particular tribute should be paid to the sustained input from non-governmental organizations into the work under the Convention. Civil society is important in all intergovernmental processes but nowhere more so than in a treaty which is all about the relationship between government and civil society.

Guidance on implementation of the Protocol on PRTRs published  

Publication of the long-awaited Guidance on implementation of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers was announced by Michel Amand, chairman of the Working Group on PRTRs, during the high-level segment of the third Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention, in Riga, Latvia, on 13 June 2008.

The Guidance, Mr. Amand told the special session, "is the result of the intense exchange of information between experts and delegates within the Working Group" which took place over a three year period. It addresses legal as well as technical issues for the intepretation of the Protocol.

The UN publication is currently available in English in hard copy and CD-Rom format, and can also be downloaded from the Protocol's capacity-building webpage. Russian and French editions of the Guidance are in preparation.

Communication Strategy Roundtable kicks off week of side events at the third Meeting of the Parties  

The Communication Strategy Roundtable, which is being co-organized by the Aarhus Convention Secretariat and the Green Spider Network of the European Commission, will be held on Tuesday, 10 June 2008, from 17.30 to 19.30, in the Alfa Room, Reval Hotel Latvija in Riga.

Mr. Pavel Antonov, Editor-in-Chief of Green Horizons, the flagship publication of the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe, will facilitate the Roundtable.

The European Network of Environmental Communicators, better known as the “Green Spider Network”, will report on the outcome of a workshop, Communicating the Aarhus Convention, held at the Green Spider’s 2007 annual meeting in Den Haag.

The Roundtable is expected to contribute to the development of a strategic communication plan to help the Parties deliver key messages to targeted constituencies in support of the Convention’s 2009-2011 work programme.

The Meeting of the Parties will consider adoption of a long-term strategic plan for the Convention.

Seven newly released national implementation reports published before the third Meeting of the Parties  

Advance copies of seven new national implementation reports have been published electronically by the Convention secretariat, one week before the opening of the third Meeting of the Parties on 11 June 2008. Albania, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Sweden and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had submitted their final draft reports after the deadline of 15 December 2007.

National implementation reports may be submitted in either English, French and Russian and are edited by the UNECE secretariat before being submitted for translation and publication as official United Nations parliamentary documents. As of 3 June 2008, 29 national implementation reports had been released electronically in advance of the Meeting.

Austria, Norway and Hungary approve GMO amendment, Latvia ratifies the Protocol on PRTRs  

The amendment on public participation in decision-making on release to the market of genetically modified organisms (GMO) gained its twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth Parties during May 2008, during which month Austria, Norway and Hungary deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN Secretary-General in New York.

Latvia, host of the third meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention, ratified the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registerson 26 April 2008.

Five years after its adoption, the Protocol has a total of eight ratifications, seven from member States. Sixteen member States' ratifications must be deposited to bring about the instrument's entry into force.

UNECE issues invitation to third meeting of the Parties
Riga, Latvia, 11-13 June 2008

Mr. Marek Belka, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, has issued a letter of invitation to the third meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention, together with an advance copy of the provisional agenda of the meeting and a provisional programme of events.

The meeting will take place in Riga, Latvia, on 11-13 June 2008, at the kind invitation of the Government of Latvia. It will be preceded by meetings of the Working Group of the Parties and the Compliance Committee (running in parallel 8-10 June 2008) as well as a number of associated events such as those organized by the European ECO-Forum.

Further information on the meetings, including the online registration form and information on the programme, side-events, credentials, visa arrangements, travel and accommodation, may be found at the website www.aarhusMoP3.org.

The official meeting documentation may be found on the Convention's MOP-3 webpages, as well as in an information note on organizational matters.

Participants including delegates, observers and members of the media are invited to register online by 30 April 2008. Organizations wishing to hold side events are invited to apply for an on-site venue by 28 April 2008.

For further details, please see the host country MOP-3 website.

Slovakia ratifies GMO amendment and accedes to the Protocol on PRTRs

The amendment on public participation in genetically modified organisms (GMO)  decision-making garnered its eleventh Party, when notification of Slovakia's ratification reached the UN Secretary-General's depository in New York on 1 April 2008. At the same time, Slovakia became the first country to accede to the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR).

The number of ratifications to the Protocol has risen to seven. Sixteen member States' ratifications must be deposited to bring about the instrument's entry into force.

Website launched for third meeting of the Parties
Riga, Lavia, 11-13 June 2008

The Government of Latvia, host to the third meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention, has launched a website providing information on the meeting. MOP3 will take place in Riga from 11-13 June 2008.

The website - www.aarhusmop3.org - includes information on travel and accommodation, application forms for financial support and side events, an informal programme including the calendar of social events, and on-line registration for the meeting, near-by hotels and excursions.

The Host Country plans to translate online the proceedings of the third meeting of the Parties into four languages - English, French, Russian and Latvian.

Links to official documents posted on the Aarhus Convention MOP3 webpages will be provided as these documents become available.

International workshop on access to information, public participation and access to justice regarding GMOs
19-20 May 2008

On 19-20 May 2008 in Cologne, Germany, Parties to the Aarhus Convention will hold an international workshop on access to information, public participation and access to justice regarding GMOs. Representatives of interested governments, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, industry and academia are invited to take part.

The workshop will focus on identifying the most pressing needs and challenges in respect of these issues and exchanging on good practices to address them. The workshop is designed to be as interactive as possible and to consider the issues from a variety of perspectives.

Further information about the workshop, together with the provisional programme, registration form and other relevant documentation is available here.

Six new ratifications of the GMO amendment ...

Parties to the Aarhus Convention have deposited to the UN Secretary-General five new ratifications of the amendment on public participation in decision-making on the deliberate release into the environment and placing on the market of genetically modified organisms. 

At the ninth meeting of the Working Group of the Parties, 13-15 February 2008, Sweden announced that it was in the process of depositing its instrument of ratification of the amendment, joining the earlier acceptance of the amendment by Moldova on 7 December 2007 and ratifications by the Czech Republic, on 29 January, and Estonia and the European Community, on 1 February 2008. 

Spain deposited its acceptance of the amendment on 21 February 2008

Spain's deposit, which was received on 21 February 2008, raises the number of ratifications of the GMO amendment to ten.

Three-quarters of the Parties to the Convention must ratify the amendment to bring about its entry into force.

... and one new ratification of the Protocol on PRTRs are announced

The Netherlands has become the most recent Party to ratify the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers. The deposit of the country's instrument of acceptance was done on 11 February 2008.

The ratification by The Netherlands raises the number of ratifications of the Protocol to six, five of these by member states, which count toward entry into force of the instrument. Sixteen member State ratifications are needed to bring the Protocol into force.

Three translations of Protocol on PRTRs published

Three national translations of the Kiev Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers into the Dutch, Slavic Macedonian (Makedonski) and Spanish languages have been posted to the Protocol's webpage. The translations were provided to the Secretariat by the respective Member States. The Protocol is also available in the three official languages of the UNECE: English, French and Russian.

2007  

Mini-conference on Agenda 21 and the Information Society
Geneva, 13 December 2007

UNECE hosted a mini-conference entitled, "Agenda 21 and the Information Society: Assessing Progress on Closing the Digital Divide, Access to Environmental Information and ICT for Sustainable Development in the ECE Region," on 13 December 2007, in Geneva.

The event marked the 15th anniversary of the adoption of Agenda 21 and principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development by the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. These agreements prefigured the development of the Aarhus Convention.

This one-day conference opened with a session examining the growth of the Information Society in the UNECE region and initiatives to build the region's Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capacity. A second session was devoted to Web-based information clearinghouses. The closing session previewed European and national perspectives on the Directive establishing Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE) and the complementary development of a Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS).

Electronic Information Tools Task Force members and other experts discussed how recent developments in Information Society are changing public access and use of environmental information, and the impact these changes will make in the areas of e-environment, e-commerce, e-democracy in Europe.

The mini-conference was chaired by Mr. Charles Geiger, Speical Advisor to UNCTAD on the Commission for Science and Technology for Development and former Executive Director of the World Summit on the Information Society. The event was co-organized by the UNECE informal ICT Group for Development.

For the complete mini-conference programme, click here. See also coverage of the conference in the Aarhus Clearinghouse Convention News.

Lithuania ratifies amendment on GMO decision-making

Lithuania has become the most recent Party to ratify the amendment on public participation in decision-making on the deliberate release into the environment and placing on the market of genetically modified organisms (decision II/1). The deposit of the country's instrument of ratification was done on 30 August 2007.

The Parties adopted the amendment to the Convention at their second meeting held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, 25-27 May 2005.

Bugaria, Denmark and Luxembourg have also ratified the GMO amendment.

The amendment will enter into force only after three-quarters of the Parties ratify it.

Germany becomes fifth Party to the Kiev Protocol on PRTRs

Germany became the fourth country to ratify the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the Aarhus Convention, having deposited its instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 28 August 2007. As the European Community is also a Party, Germany's action raises the number of Parties to the treaty to five.

The Protocol would need to chalk up 12 further member State ratifications by early 2008 to allow the first session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol to be held back-to-back with the third session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention, scheduled for 11-13 June 2008, in Riga.

Task Force on Access to Justice to hold mini-conference

The first day of the task force's 2007 meeting will take the form of a ‘mini-conference’ on the theme of ‘ Opening the Doors to Justice: The Challenge of Strengthening Public Access ’. The event, set for 10 September 2007, in Geneva, will allow for the free exchange of opinions on the ‘burning issues’ in the implementation of the third pillar of the Convention between a wider range of stakeholders than normally participate in task force meetings.

For more information, click here.

Estonia ratifies the Kiev Protocol on PRTRs

Estonia became the third country to ratify the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the Aarhus Convention, having deposited its instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 15 August 2007.

The first session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol may be held back-to-back with the third session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention, scheduled for 11-13 June 2008, if a further thirteen ratifications are deposited by early 2008.

Aarhus workshop on public participation in strategic decision-making

The workshop will discuss existing practices for public participation in plans, programmes and policies as well as in the preparation of laws and regulations that may have a significant effect on the environment (articles 7 and 8 of the Aarhus Convention). It will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 3 and 4 December 2007.

For complete information, see the Convention's new webpage on Public Participation in Strategic Decision-making.

Convention's website undergoes facelift

Beginning in July 2007, the website of the Aarhus Convention will undergo an extensive facelift. We have arranged the information pages on the website into four broad categories or menus, including:

  • General information on the Convention and its Protocol
  • The Meeting of the Parties and other Convention bodies and processes
  • Capacity-building and information tools
  • Practical information.

Under "Publications", major guidance documents, recommendations and training materials used to promote implementation of the Convention are have been brought together for the first time.

The Press centre's new "Media" page features more than two dozen published articles on the development and progress of the Convention.

International workshop on involving the public in international forums

The workshop will be held in Geneva on 20-21 June 2007. The aim of the workshop is to provide a forum within which representatives of various international forums (from governments, secretariats and other stakeholders) can meet together to exchange experiences of their practices with respect to the themes of access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice.

The workshop is being held in culmination of the consultation process on the Almaty Guidelines and the issues they address.

For more information, click here.

Workshop for senior members of the juduciary organized in Ukraine

The first sub-regional workshop for senior members of the judiciary is scheduled to take place on 4-5 June 2007 in Kiev, Ukraine. The workshop will bring together senior judges from the six countries of the sub-region, as well as several members of the EU Forum of Judges for the Environment (EUFJE) and international environmental law experts.

The workshop is being organized in cooperation with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and with financial support of Sweden.

Public consultation on future of Aarhus concluded

On 1 June 2007, the Secretariat released a compilation of the public comments received on the draft elements for a long-term strategic plan for the Aarhus Convention. In all, 20 comments were submitted from 14 countries and the Council of Europe.

To read these comments, click here.

Aarhus Convention secretariat addresses sustainability of the Information Society

At an event organized by the five United Nations Regional Commissions for Africa, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Latin American and the Caribbean, and Western Asia - "The Information Society: From Declaration to Implementation" (Geneva, Switzerland) - Mr. Jeremy Wates, Secretary to the Aarhus Convention, spoke on managing the environmental footprint of the Information Society.

The event also provided an opportunity to explore how new forms of electronic participation are being promoted in the UNECE region by the Convention.

For more information, see the UNECE press release.

Bulgaria ratifies GMO Amendment

On 30 April 2007, Bulgaria deposited with the UN Secretary-General its instrument of ratification to the Amendment to the Aarhus Convention dealing with decision-making on genetically modified organisms, becoming the third Party to the Amendment.

At the second meeting of the Parties to Convention (Almaty, Kazakhstan, 25-27 May 2005), the Parties adopted the Amendment to the Convention on public participation in decisions on the deliberate release into the environment and placing on the market of genetically modified organisms (decision II/1).

Denmark and Luxembourg have also ratified the GMO amendment.

Public consultation on future of Aarhus extended

The deadline for consultation on the draft elements for a long-term strategic plan for the Aarhus Convention has been extended by one month to the end of May 2007 to allow further opportunities for public comment.

See further details.

Switzerland ratifies the Kiev Protocol on PRTRs

Switzerland became the second country to ratify the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the Aarhus Convention, having deposited its instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 27 April 2007.

The Protocol, which was signed in May 2003, in Kiev, Ukraine, shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the sixteenth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, under article 27 of the Protocol.

Croatia ratifies Aarhus Convention

Having deposited its instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the 27 March 2007, Croatia will become the 41st Party to the Aarhus Convention on 25 June 2007.

Article 20 of the Convention states that the Convention shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of a State’s instrument of ratification. Croatia is one of 14 countries outside of the European Union to have ratified the treaty.

Public consultation of future of Aarhus

A public consultation on the long-term future of the Aarhus Convention has been launched. See further details.

Capacity-building workshop on the Aarhus Clearinghouse and Electronic Information Tools

The first in a proposed series of capacity-building workshops aimed at national administrators and other information providers to the Aarhus Clearinghouse Mechanism was held at the Regional Environmental Center, in Szentendre, Hungary, on 8-9 March 2007. Twenty-four experts from 12 countries, mainly of South Eastern Europe, participated in the workshop.

Bosnia and Herzegovina used the occasion to announce the launch of its national web portal to the Aarhus Convention.

Germany ratifies the Aarhus Convention

Having deposited its instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the 15 January 2007, Germany is set to become the 40th Party to the Aarhus Convention on 15 April 2007.

Article 20 of the Convention states that the Convention shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of a State’s instrument of ratification.

Belgrade Conference proposed as target for ratification of Protocol on PRTRs

The Chairperson of the Meeting of the Parties, Ms Hanne Inger Bjurstrøm, has encouraged National Focal Points and participants in the Working Group on PRTRs to explore the possibilities for expediting progress towards ratification of the Protocol by their countries.

The Bureau of the Convention has proposed that the Sixth Ministerial Conference 'Environment for Europe', scheduled for 10-12 October 2007 in Belgrade, should serve as a target to stimulate progress toward ratification.

To read the Chairperson's letter, click here.

2006  

Aarhus compliance review leads to debate on access to justice in Belgium

A Belgian NGO claimed that the failure of some Belgian courts to grant standing to environmental NGOs in certain cases concerning planning and permitting decisions was in violation of the Convention.

Reviewing the case, the Compliance Committee found that Belgium had not failed to comply with the Convention.

However, certain decisions arising from proceedings initiated before the Convention’s entry into force would have been in conflict with the Convention’s provisions had the proceedings been initiated after the entry into force, according to the Committee.

This finding was sufficient to prompt Belgium to convene a multistakeholder roundtable held in the federal parliament in mid-May 2006.

The Government also initiated further training for the judiciary, consultations between the relevant Ministers at federal and regional level and the establishment of a national team of officers to follow up on the matter.

The Committee’s Chairperson, Mr. Veit Koester of Denmark, commented that the case "illustrates the value of having a mechanism which responds to input from the public, without which the issue might not have come to the attention of the Committee."

European Community ratifies the Kiev Protocol on PRTRs

The European Community became the second Signatory to ratify the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, having deposited its instrument of approval with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 21 February 2006.

The Protocol, which was signed in May 2003, in Kiev, Ukraine, will enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the sixteenth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession by a member State of the United Nations, under article 27 of the Protocol.

Although the European Community’s ratification does not count toward this goal, it is expected to spur ratification of the instrument by its 25 Member States.

Luxembourg ratifies the Kiev Protocol on PRTRs

Luxembourg became the first country to ratify the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the Aarhus Convention, having deposited its instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 7 February 2006.

The Protocol, which was signed in May 2003, in Kiev, Ukraine, shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the sixteenth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, under article 27 of the Protocol.

Greece becomes 39th Party to Aarhus Convention

Having deposited its instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the 27 January 2006, Greece is set to become the 39th Party to the Aarhus Convention on 27 April 2006.

Article 20 of the Convention states that the Convention shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of a State’s instrument of ratification.

Slovakia accedes to the Aarhus Convention

Having deposited its instrument of accession with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the 5 December 2005, Slovakia became the first country to accede to the Convention. Slovakia will become the 38th Party to the Aarhus Convention on 5 March 2006.

The Convention was opened for accession to any Member State of the United Nations on 28 December 1998, under article 19. Article 20 of the Convention states that the Convention shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of a State’s instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Luxembourg becomes 37th Party to Aarhus Convention

Having deposited its instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the 25 October 2005, Luxembourg became the 37th Party to the Aarhus Convention on 23 Janaury 2006.

Article 20 of the Convention states that the Convention shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of a State’s instrument of ratification.

2005  

Aarhus Compliance Committee reviews new communication

The ninth meeting of the Compliance Committee to the Aarhus Convention will be held in Geneva, 12-14 October 2005. During the ninth session, the Committee will discuss the content of communication ACCC/C/2005/11, which concerns the standing of NGOs under Belgium legislation and case law.

The Committee is also expected to finalize and adopt its findings and, as appropriate, recommendations with regard to communications ACCC/C/2004/06 involving the Republic of Kazakhstan and ACCC/C/2004/08 involving the Republic of Armenia.

Sweden becomes 36th Party to Aarhus Convention

Having deposited its instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the 20 May 2005, Sweden became the 36th Party to the Aarhus Convention on 18 August 2005.

Article 20 of the Convention states that the Convention shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of a State’s instrument of ratification.

Almaty meeting breathes new life into environmental democracy movement

The Parties to the Aarhus Convention opened their second meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on 25 May 2005. The Meeting concluded after three days of deliberation with the adoption of an amendment to the Convention extending the rights of the public to participate in decision-making on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Also adopted were Guidelines on how Parties should apply the principles of the Aarhus Convention in other international environment-related forums and Recommendations on electronic information tools to increase public access to environmental information.

The Meeting reviewed the first set of national reports on implementation to see whether and how the goals of the Convention are applied in practice. The reports reveal that the Parties have made important progress in applying the Convention but also that significant obstacles to implementation remain.

In the first test of the Convention's compliance mechanism, the findings of its Compliance Committee that three countries — Turkmenistan, Ukraine and the host country Kazakhstan — had failed to comply with certain provisions of the Convention were upheld by the Parties.

The Meeting renewed the mandate of the task force on access to justice, having identified this ‘pillar’ of the Convention as the one posing the greatest challenges.

The Parties extended an invitation to States outside the UNECE region to accede to the Convention and pledged their support for the drawing up of appropriate regional instruments.

A high-level segment, held on 27 May, was chaired by Ms. Aitkul Samakova, Minister of Environmental Protection of Kazakhstan.

See the press release.

New ratifications of the Aarhus Convention

Austria, the European Community and the United Kingdom deposited their instruments of ratification on 17 January 2005, 17 February and 23 February respectively, which brings the number of Parties to the Convention to 35.

See our press release.

2nd meeting of the Working Group on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs)

The session reviewed options for rules of procedure and a compliance mechanism to the Protocol and appointed a facilitator to prepare draft elements for these for consideration at its next session.

Participants gave the draft guidance on the Protocol on PRTRs its first reading and agreed to prepare a final version based on the drafts circulated and amended during the session, with the aim of completing the guidance in 2005.

The session also called attention to the need to address the capacity of EECCA countries to implement the Protocol successfully and called for greater outreach to the business sector, which has indirect obligations to report to national PRTRs.

A new “Environmental Democracy” clearinghouse opens

Aarhusclearinghouse.unece.org is being launched by the UNECE to highlight and promote awareness of issues covered by the Aarhus Convention. The clearing house showcases good practices in citizens’ environmental rights and is expected to make implementation of the Convention more effective.

See the press release.

2004  

UNECE hosts side-event on PRTRs at 4th European Environment and Health Ministerial Conference

“PRTRs Now! How pollutant release and transfer registers can promote pan-European environmental and public health” is the seminar organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) on the opening day of the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Budapest: “The future for our children”.

For more information, see the Working Group on PRTR webpages.

Compliance Committee examines public communications

The Aarhus Convention’s Compliance Committee entered a new phase when it met in Geneva on 13-14 May 2004. For the first time, the Committee began the work of examining communications submitted to it by NGOs alleging non-compliance with the Convention.

So far, five communications have been submitted to the Compliance Committee.

See the press release.

First meeting of the Working Group on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers

The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR) was adopted during the Kiev Ministerial on 21 May 2003. The first meeting of the Working Group on PRTR established according to the resolution of the Signatories to the Protocol was held in Geneva on 16-18 February 2004.

The meeting discussed preparations for the entry into force of the Protocol and its first meeting of the Parties, needs and prospects for capacity-building, technical support, guidance and information exchange, as well as national preparations for ratification and implementation of the Protocol.

2nd Meeting of the Task Force on Electronic Information Tools

The second meeting of the Task Force on Electronic Information
Tools
took place in Geneva on 26-27 January 2004.

3rd Meeting of the Compliance Committee

The 3rd meeting of the Compliance Committee took place on 22-23 January in Geneva.

2003  

Aarhus side event at World Summit on the Information Society

The UNECE organised, in the context of the World Summit on the Information Society, a side event on the Aarhus Convention entitled "Information and Communication Technologies for Environmental Democracy".

The event focused on the use of electronic information tools to strengthen environmental rights and their contribution to sustainable development within the framework of good governance, and respect for human rights.

The event provided an opportunity for participants from different regions to exchange perspectives through a round of presentations and a panel discussion. Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerovà, Executive Secretary of the UNECE chaired the discussions.

The event took place on Wednesday, 10 December 2003 at Palexpo Centre in Geneva.

For more information on the World Summit go to http://www.wsisgeneva2003.org/.

Aarhus Convention submission to Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

In April 2003 a resolution on “Human rights and the environment as part of sustainable development” was adopted by the Commission on Human Rights. It requested the Secretary-General to submit to the Commission at its sixtieth session in spring 2004 a report “on the consideration being given to the possible relationship between the environment and human rights”, taking into account the contributions that concerned international organizations and bodies have made.

The activities carried out under the Aarhus Convention are of great relevance to this topic. To a certain extent, the Convention may be said to embody the link between human rights and the environment, being an instrument which on the one hand aims to ensure better protection of the environment, and on the other, attempts to achieve this goal by seeking to guarantee specific rights of individuals.

A submission to the report was made by the secretariat, on behalf of UNECE.

Aarhus Package adopted by European Commission

As the Aarhus Convention marks the second anniversary of its entry into force the European Commission recently adopted three legislative proposals putting the Convention into practice. If the European Commisson's proposals are adopted by the EU, the provisions of the Aarhus Convention will apply in full to the European Union's bodies and institutions.

The Commission is also proposing a directive on access to justice in environmental matters and a decision on ratifying the Aarhus Convention.

Have a look at the EC webpage - http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/aarhus/index.htm and press release.