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Full Summary of the Budva Meetings

 

Sixth Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention

The sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP 6) to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) convened on Monday, 11 September, in Budva, Montenegro.

After an opening musical performance, H.E. Mr. Pavle Radulović, Minister for Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro, opened the preparatory segment of the Meeting of the Parties by welcoming all participants and outlining the importance given by Montenegro to applying the sustainable principles in its decision-making, notably by allocating the necessary financial resources to building and maintaining an environmental infrastructure; by creating a new environmental policy to ensure environmental protection; and by taking the necessary initiatives in key economic activities to fight against climate change. Most importantly, Montenegro recognized the human rights value of the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention: access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. The important level of implementation of the Convention proved the State’s sense of responsibility towards not only the present, but also the future generations. 

The Chair of the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention, Ms. Maia Bitadze, welcomed the participants, and thanked UNECE and the Government of Montenegro for organizing and hosting MOP 6. She recalled that the purpose of the meeting was to assess the progress in implementing the Aarhus Convention and discuss adopt a number of decisions to guide the future work. 

The Director of the UNECE Environment Division, Mr. Marco Keiner, took the floor next to thank the Government of Montenegro for its hospitality and the organization of such a complex event, as well as all the partners for their generous support. He underlined that almost 400 representatives of Governments, partner organizations, NGOs, academia and private sector attended the MOP. He underscored that the purpose of the meeting was to review the implementation of the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol on PRTRs and to guide its future priorities, to address the instruments’ relevance to the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) implementation, and to adopt a Declaration covering this matter, along with several other emerging issues related to environmental democracy. He then invited all to participate in the side events, taking place at the margins of the Meeting of the Parties and covering a number of important topics (e.g. access to justice and protection of environmental activists, transparency and information sharing through various electronic tools and databases, public participation in matters related to climate change, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), green economy, and global promotion of the principles of the Convention). 

The Meeting then adopted the provisional agenda for its sixth session (ECE/MP.PP/2017/1). MOP 6 comprised of the preparatory, general and high-level segments. The Meeting considered a number of pending decisions and factual amendments to the Budva Declaration at the preparatory segment on Monday, 11 September 2017. 

The general segment of the Meeting of the Parties was opened on Tuesday, 12 September 2017 by Ms. Ivana Vojinović, Deputy Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro. In her welcome statement the Deputy Minister highlighted the requirements of the Aarhus Convention and the progress of their implementation by Montenegro, which, as an Ecological State, always gives significant importance to sustainable development. She also stressed our joint responsibility towards generations to come for a sustainable future. 

All decisions and outcomes included in the List of Key Decisions and Outcomes of MOP 6 (ECE/MP.PP/2017/CRP.9) were approved and provisionally adopted during consideration of their respective agenda items at the preparatory and general segments and were then formally adopted during the High-Level Segment on Thursday, 14 September. This report summarizes discussions on each agenda item considered at MOP 6.

Status of Ratification of the Convention and the Amendment to the Convention

The Aarhus Convention secretariat informed that there were no new ratifications since 2014 keeping the number of Parties to the Convention at 47. The number of ratifications of the Amendment on Public Participation in Decisions on the Deliberate Release into the Environment and Placing on the Market of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) increased from 28 to 31 with ratifications by France, Georgia and Malta. This brought the number of ratifications required for its entry into force to just two Parties from among the following list: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.

In an intervention, Mr Andrei Ozharovskii, representing the European ECO Forum, expressed regret over the fact that the Russian Federation had not yet acceded to the Convention. The representative of Guinea-Bissau, Mr. Mário Batista Camala, informed that his country was already applying the principles of the Aarhus Convention, hoping that other African countries would also follow. He also informed about the steps taken by the country towards acceding to the Convention.

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties welcomed the ratification of the GMO amendment by France, Georgia and Malta and took note of the information provided by Guinea-Bissau on the progress made towards acceding to the Convention.

Substantive Issues

Access to information 

The Chair, Ms Maia Bitadze, introduced the draft decision VI/1 on promoting effective access to information (ECE/MP.PP/2017/8). In the absence of the Chair of the Task Force on Access to Information, the report on the Task Force’s activities since the fifth session of the Meeting of the Parties will be published online.

Ms. Mara Silina from the European ECO Forum then delivered a keynote speech on access to information in which she pointed to the crucial role of the continuous work of the Task Force. She stressed the importance of a shared environmental information system and encouraged the use of electronic tools, urging the countries to provide trustworthy information in a timely and user-friendly manner, free of charge. 

Belarus shared information on the work it had undertaken and the success of the public ecological project “Green map” that had started in 2012 and continued to develop with active participation of local volunteer groups. Delegates from the European Union, Norway and Switzerland also made interventions. 

Final Outcome 

The MOP provisionally adopted the draft decision VI/1 on promoting effective access to information (ECE/MP.PP/2017/8).  Thanking the Task Force for the work done during the intersessional period, the MOP expressed its appreciation to Republic of Moldova for chairing the Task Force and welcomed its offer to continue leading this work area in the next intersessional period. 

Public participation in decision-making

Moving on to the second pillar of the Aarhus Convention, Ms. Bitadze introduced a draft decision VI/2 on promoting effective public participation in decision-making (ECE/MP.PP/2017/9).

Ms. Loredana Dall’Ora (Italy), Chair of the Task Force on Public Participation in Decision-making, presented the highlights of the Task Force’s activities since MOP 5. She noted the Task Force’s vital role in bringing together the authorities from a number of countries and in creating a platform for dialogue, aiming to practically address the challenges related to the implementation of the public participation in decision-making. She recognized the progress achieved in applying the Maastricht Recommendations on Promoting Effective Public Participation in Decision-making in Environmental Matters, but stated there were still efforts to be made. Elaborating on the work accomplished by the Task Force, she informed that the thematic sessions on particular types of decision-making or sectors had proved to be very beneficial for Parties and stakeholders. 

In her keynote statement, Ms. Anke Stock, representative of the European ECO Forum, shared a few concerns as to speeding up the public participation process in some of the countries and to ensuring the participation of marginalized groups. She stressed the importance of translating the Maastricht Recommendations into national languages.

Delegates from Friends of the Earth and the Irish Environmental Network shared their concerns with regard to the evolution of public participation in the United Kingdom in the context of Brexit and the implications it might have in environmental matters. Many delegations stressed the critical importance of effective public participation and of sharing good practices and problems. Speakers included Belarus, the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, REC CEE, a representative of Aarhus Centre Sarajevo and a number of NGOs.

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties, inter alia, took note of the report of the Chair of the Task Force and keynote statements and other interventions by Government representatives, NGOs and other stakeholders and provisionally adopted draft decision VI/2 on promoting effective public participation in decision-making (ECE/MP.PP/2017/9). Thanking the Task Force for the work done during the intersessional period, the MOP expressed its appreciation to Italy for chairing the Task Force and welcomed its offer to continue leading this work area in the next intersessional period.

Access to justice

Turning to the third pillar of the Aarhus Convention, Ms. Bitadze introduced a draft decision VI/3 on promoting effective access to justice (ECE/MP.PP/2017/10).

Mr. Jan Darpö (Sweden), Chair of the Task Force on Access to Justice, presented its main accomplishments since the last MOP, with particular emphasis on the development of a jurisprudence database. He continued by stating that the third pillar of the Convention was unfortunately still the weakest, and stressed the importance of keeping back to back meetings with lawyers, judges and other important stakeholders of the Convention, developing trainings and enriching the database of cases. 

In an ensuing keynote statement, Mr. Miroslav Gavalec, judge from the Supreme Court of Slovakia, observed the substantial positive impact that the Aarhus Convention entailed in terms of relation between the Courts and the public, as it stipulates that everyone has the right to be heard. 

Representatives of Armenia, the European Union, Norway, OSCE Mission in Serbia, REC CEE, Judge Beibut Shermukhmetov (Kazakhstan), Environmental Links UK, the European ECO Forum, NGOs Justice and Environment/Oekobuero, and Landvernd then shared experiences from their respective countries and areas of expertise, affirming their support to the draft decision on promoting effective access to justice. 

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties, inter alia, took note of the report by the Chair of the Task Force and keynote statements and interventions by Governments, NGOs and other stakeholders. The Meeting of the Parties provisionally adopted draft decision VI/3 on promoting effective access to justice as amended at the meeting (ECE/MP.PP/2017/CRP.1). Thanking the Task Force for the work done during the intersessional period, the MOP expressed its appreciation to Sweden for chairing the Task Force and welcomed its offer to continue leading this work area in the next intersessional period.

Genetically modified organisms

The MOP 6 Chair, Ms Maia Bitadze reminded the delegates that the amendment on GMOs of the Convention had not been approved by a sufficient number of Parties to enter into force and that two more ratifications were needed.

Mr. Helmut Gaugitsch (Austria), Chair of the second joint global round table on public awareness, access to information and public participation regarding living/modified organisms (LMOs/GMOs), reported on activities undertaken since the last MOP and outlined the concrete steps for a way forward, inter alia, continuing to strengthen coordination and cooperation between national focal points of both the Aarhus Convention and the Cartagena Protocol, developing a “pocket guide” describing the benefits and challenges to promote transparency and public participation in LMOs/GMOs related matters, and organizing a similar round table in the next intersessional period of the two instruments.

Followed short reports on activities relating the implementation of the Convention with respect to genetically modified organisms and/or the application of the amendment to the Convention regarding public participation in decisions on the deliberate release into the environment and placing on the market of GMOs from representatives of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Ukraine. Then Ms. Ulrika Nilsson, representing the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), delivered a statement on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the CBD, Ms. Cristiana Pasca Palmer, in which she stressed the close collaboration between the secretariats of the Aarhus Convention and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and how the joint activities help to better promote public awareness, education and participation concerning the safe transfer, handling and use of LMOs. All Parties were encouraged to further support these collaborative activities of the Aarhus Convention and CBD and to make use of the valuable materials that have been developed, in particular the e-learning modules available on the Biodiversity E-Learning Platform.  The delegates from the European Union and the European ECO Forum urged the countries, which did not yet ratify the amendment on the GMOs, to do so. 

Final Outcome 

The Meeting of the Parties, inter alia, took note of the report by the Chair of the joint Global Round Table on GMOs/LMOs and of other statements and information provided on the status of the GMO ratification and other relevant developments. It further, urged Parties whose ratification of the GMO amendment would count towards its entry into force — i.e., Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan and Ukraine — to take urgent steps towards ratification of the GMO amendment; and called upon other Parties to ratify the GMO amendment. The MOP further called upon Parties and partner organizations to offer bilateral assistance, capacity-building and technical support to Parties whose ratification of the GMO amendment would count towards its entry into force. The MOP welcomed the effective cooperation between the secretariats of the Aarhus Convention and of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and requested to continue this cooperation in the next intersessional period including through the organization of a joint event. Finally, the MOP expressed its appreciation to Austria for chairing this area of work and welcomed its offer to continue leading this work area in the next intersessional period.

Procedures and Mechanisms Facilitating the Implementation of the Convention

Reporting mechanism

The Chair introduced a draft decision VI/7 on reporting requirements (ECE/MP.PP/2017/14), which included some factual revisions regarding the timely submission of national implementation reports (NIRs). She also presented a summary of the synthesis report on the status of implementation of the Convention (ECE/MP.PP/2017/6), informing that 30 NIRs were submitted by Parties before the deadline and seven were submitted after. Three Parties (i.e. the European Union, Portugal and Sweden) submitted their reports too late to be taken into consideration in the synthesis report. According to the synthesis report, Parties claimed that the process of preparing NIRs had been transparent and participatory. Some of the key findings were that Parties continued to face challenges in implementing provisions of the Convention. Nevertheless, Parties reported to have regulated most aspects of it and to have undertaken legislative changes in order to transpose the Convention’s provisions into national legislation. Interventions were made by the European Union, Switzerland, and Landvernd.

Final Outcome 

Taking note of the statements and information provided in national implementation reports submitted by Parties, the reports by NGOs and the synthesis report prepared by the secretariat, the Meeting of the Parties noted with regret that one third of Parties did not submit their reports by the set deadline and urged Parties that did not submit their national implementation reports, namely Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Netherlands, Republic of Moldova, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and United Kingdom, to do so by latest 1 November 2017 in required format. Finally, the MOP provisionally adopted decision VI/7 on reporting requirements as amended at the meeting (ECE/MP.PP/2017/CRP.2).

Compliance mechanism

The Chair of the Compliance Committee, Mr. Jonas Ebbesson (Sweden), presented the work of the Compliance Committee since MOP5, including the findings and recommendations adopted, addressed issues of compliance with general provisions and with each of the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention and the measures taken to make the Committee’s work more effective. Amongst the highlights, the Chair of the Compliance Committee mentioned that the majority of Parties accepted the Committee’s recommendations and that most Parties subject to MOP follow-up made considerable progress and were very close to fulfilling the requirements, whereas several Parties had already succeeded in doing so. 

Turning to individual cases of non-compliance, the MOP Chair invited Parties to always aim for consensus. Following interventions from Armenia, Belarus, Romania, Ukraine, the European ECO Forum and a number of NGOs, the MOP considered a draft decision VI/8 on general issues of compliance (ECE/MP.PP/2017/CRP.7) and 11 draft decisions on specific cases of non-compliance concerning Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czechia, the European Union, Kazakhstan, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom (ECE/MP.PP/2017/20-26, 29 and ECE/MP.PP/2017/CRP.4-6), all of which, except of the draft decision on the European Union, were approved and provisionally adopted at preparatory and general segments. With regard to draft decision VI/8 (f) on compliance by European Union (ECE/MP.PP/2017/25), the Meeting of the Parties failed to reach consensus, so an informal contact group was created to continue the discussion. The Meeting saw a strong stand against the European Union's efforts to prevent the MOP adopting this decision endorsing findings that the European Union was in non-compliance with the Convention for its failure to allow members of the public to have access to justice to challenge acts and omissions by European Union institutions that contravene European Union law relating to the environment. Faced with a situation that could have seriously jeopardised the authority of the MOP and the integrity of the Convention’s compliance mechanism, the strong resistance by several Parties together with environmental NGOs and other stakeholders ultimately saw the United Nation's spirit of consensus prevail and the discussion on the decision on compliance by the European Union has been postponed until the next ordinary session of MOP. Norway, Switzerland and the NGO Client Earth, also speaking on behalf of the European ECO Forum, expressed their deep regret to the position taken by the European Union. 

On the election of the new Compliance Committee, MOP6 Chair noted the need for further discussion on the nominations, and a contact group was formed to consider this matter. The final list of new nominees was balanced in terms of expertise, geographical representation and gender. 

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties, inter alia, took note of the report by the Chair of the Compliance Committee and statements and interventions by Governments and NGOs and thanked the Chair and other Compliance Committee members for their work in this intersessional period. Welcoming the reports by the Compliance Committee (ECE/MP.PP/2017/31 and ECE/MP.PP/2017/32), the Meeting of the Parties provisionally adopted, without amendments draft decisions on compliance by Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czechia, Kazakhstan and Spain. It further provisionally adopted, as amended at the meeting, decisions on Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom and the draft decision VI/8 on general issues of compliance. With regard to the draft decision VI/8 on general issues of compliance, the MOP took note of the request of Belarus to reflect its statement containing the proposed amendments in the meeting report.

With regard to draft decision VI/8 (f) on compliance by European Union (ECE/MP.PP/2017/25), in the spirit of reaching consensus, considering exceptional circumstances, the Meeting of the Parties decided by consensus to postpone the decision-making on this draft decision to the next ordinary session of the Meeting of the Parties to be held in 2021. The European Union recalled its willingness to continue exploring ways and means to comply with the Convention in a way that is compatible with the fundamental principles of the Union legal order and with its system of judicial review. The Meeting of the Parties also requested the Committee to review any developments that have taken place regarding the matter, and to report to the Meeting of the Parties accordingly. In this context, the European Union stated that it reaffirms its commitment to implement decision V/9g. The Meeting of the Parties agreed to reflect the statements by Belarus, Norway and Switzerland in the report of its session.

With regard to membership of the Compliance Committee, the MOP re-elected by consensus the following members of the Committee: Ms. Heghine Hakhverdyan (nominated by Armenia) and Mr. Jerzy Jendrośka (nominated by Georgia), and elected by consensus Ms. Fruzsina Bögös (nominated by Hungary), Mr. Marc Clément (nominated by France), Mr. Peter Oliver (nominated by the European Union) and Mr. Dmytro Skrylinkov (nominated by Ukraine), as new members of the Compliance Committee.

Capacity-building

Chair Bitadze brought to the attention of participants the Report on capacity-building (ECE/MP.PP/2017/7) and stressed the important role of partner organizations in assisting in the promotion and implementation of the Convention at local, national and sub-regional levels. She also encouraged partner organizations to continue assisting Parties in implementing recommendations of the Convention’s Compliance Committee and the relevant decisions of the Meeting of the Parties on compliance matter. In this regard, sustainable funding to build capacities of NGOs to participate in the Convention’s compliance mechanism also continued to be crucially beneficial for the quality of its functioning. Then, several delegations, such as the European Union, Georgia, Namibia, Serbia, Switzerland, OSCE, REC CEE, Judicial Academy of Republic of Serbia, and the European ECO Forum shared their views on outstanding needs for capacity-building and informed the participants about the activities undertaken. 

Final Outcome 

The Meeting of the Parties, inter alia, welcomed the cooperation of the secretariat on capacity-building activities with partner organizations. Furthermore, the MOP expressed its appreciation to partner organizations for their continued support to the implementation of the Convention. Finally, it encouraged national focal points to the Convention to support assistance programmes, which support the capacity-building needs regarding the Aarhus Convention and Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration.

Promotion of the Convention and Relevant Developments and Interlinkages

Accession to the Convention by States from outside the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe region (UNECE)

The Convention secretariat reported on the progress regarding accession by Guinea-Bissau in accordance with decision IV/5 of the Meeting of the Parties (ECE/MP.PP/2011/2/Add.1). In the ensuing discussion, the European ECO Forum welcomed the interest from Guinea-Bissau, and invited Parties to remove additional requirements for non-UNECE States. 

Final Outcome 

Taking note of the statement from the European ECO Forum the Meeting of the Parties welcomed the progress achieved by Guinea-Bissau in the process towards acceding to the Aarhus Convention and invited the country to consider the remaining steps required to proceed with accession in accordance with decision IV/5 of the Meeting of the Parties (ECE/MP.PP/2011/2/Add.1). It further requested the Working Group of the Parties and the Bureau to follow up on the matter.

Promotion of the Convention’s principles

Mr. Etienne Ballan (France), Chair of the thematic session on Promotion of the Principles of the Convention in International Forums (PPIFs), held in the framework of the meetings of the Working Group, reported on the topics covered since MOP 5. He underlined the advantages of the chosen format, namely that the sessions were held under the auspices of the Working Group of the Parties. He also listed the areas to be given priority in the future work.

Then, Mr. Hakan Lucius, representing the European Investment Bank (EIB) delivered a keynote statement in which he elaborated on the application of transparency in the EIB activities, and how this encouraged public participation, notably through workshops and public consultations, noting the benefits of such an approach. 

In an ensuing keynote statement, Mr. Sébastien Duyck, representative of the European ECO Forum, urged delegates to promote the principles of the Convention proactively and in an effective manner, prior to their participation in forums. Interventions were also made by France, the European Union, and the European ECO Forum.

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties, inter alia, took note of the report by the outgoing Chair of the thematic session on Public Participation in International Forums on the activities since the fifth session of the Meeting of the Parties and thanked him for the work done. Taking also note of other keynote statements and interventions by Governments, NGOs and other stakeholders, the MOP provisionally adopted draft decision VI/4 on promoting the application of the principles of the Convention in international forums (ECE/MP.PP/2017/11). It further expressed its appreciation to France for leading this area of work and welcomed its offer to continue its leadership in the next intersessional period. Finally, the MOP welcomed the new Chair of the thematic session on Public Participation in International Forums, Ms. Laura Michel.

Synergies between the Convention and other relevant multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and other partners

The Chair briefly summarized the outcomes of the five ECE MEAs informal coordination processes, whose purpose was to exchange information on priorities under the ECE MEAs and to identify and discuss possible areas of cooperation and synergies that could be established among the MEAs, as well as with the Committee of Environmental Policy (CEP). 

Then, Ms. Jenniver Sehring from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), reported on the contribution of Aarhus Centres in promoting synergies between the Aarhus, Espoo and Helsinki Conventions in terms of public participation in transboundary water management process in South-Eastern Europe.

A representative of the European ECO Forum stressed the importance of promoting Principle 10 in other Conventions, as involvement of the public is fundamental. Further, the European ECO Forum referred to the informal meetings of UNECE MEA Chairs and Compliance Committee Chairs as important mechanism for synergies between UNECE MEAs.

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties took note of the statements and information provided and thanked the secretariats and bodies of multilateral environmental agreements and partner organizations for cooperation with the secretariat on promoting relevant provisions of the Convention. 

Global and regional developments on issues related to Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development

In a video message, Mr. Joséluis Samaniego, Director of the Sustainable Development Division, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) thanked UNECE for its support, and informed the MOP on the progress achieved towards a regional agreement on access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, stressing it was getting close to concluding negotiations that had been carried out with wide public participation. The purpose of such an agreement was to strengthen environmental governance and facilitate living in a sustainable environment. The work carried out by ECLAC in this matter was welcomed by the delegates from Italy, Spain, the European ECO Forum and REC CEE. 

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties, inter alia, thanked Mr. Joseluis Samaniego from ECLAC for the keynote statement and welcomed the progress in developing a regional instrument on the application of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Taking note of statements by Governments, NGOs and other stakeholders, the MOP offered the readiness of Parties to support the region in its endeavours.

Update on United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiatives on access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters

Ms. Eva Duer, representing UNEP, elaborated on the initiatives the Programme had undertaken with regard to the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention. These included the co-organization of the IUCN World Environmental Law Congress in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, strong promotion of the environmental rule of law, and the development of an Implementation Guide for the Bali Guidelines, along with other publications on international environmental governance. The MOP took note of the statement by UNEP.

Programme of Work and Operation of the Convention

Implementation of the work programme for 2015–2017

The secretariat updated the MOP on the latest financial contributions and pledges for the implementation of the Convention’s and the Protocol’s work programmes received from the Parties after the finalization of the Report on contributions and expenditures in relation to the implementation of the Convention’s work programme for 2015–2017 (ECE/MP.PP/2017/4). 

Several delegations, including the European Union, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, and the REC CEE, then reported on the activities carried out to support implementation of the Convention. Aarhus Centre Banja Luka made an intervention regarding persecution of activists in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Final Outcome 

The Meeting of the Parties, inter alia, took note of the information provided by the secretariat on the implementation of the work programme for 2015–2017 as well as on contributions and pledges for the implementation of the Convention’s work programmes for 2015-2017 which were not included in the report to the Meeting of the Parties (AC/MOP-6/Inf.4 – PRTR/MOPP-3/Inf.2). Taking note of the statements by the several Governments and stakeholders, the MOP expressed appreciation for the work done by the secretariat and recognized the difficulties posed by limited and unpredictable funding.

Future work programme

Italy announced it would organize an event in spring 2018 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of signing the Convention. Switzerland invited the MOP to consider the potential of the Chinese initiative One Belt One Road for promoting the Aarhus Convention. Several Parties made pledges for the implementation of the future work programme. Delegates from the European ECO Forum and REC CEE expressed their concern over the prolongation of the intersessional period from three to four years, stating this might affect negatively on the implementation of the Convention. 

Final Outcome

Taking note of the statements by Governments, NGOs and other stakeholders, as well as pledges for the implementation of the work programme, the Meeting of the Parties provisionally adopted draft decision VI/5 on the work programme for 2018–2021 (ECE/MP.PP/2017/12). It further welcomed the willingness by Italy to organize an event in spring 2018 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Convention.

Financial arrangements

After considering the proposed document, and further to interventions from Governments, NGOs and other stakeholders, the Meeting of the Parties provisionally adopted draft decision VI/6 on financial arrangements under the Convention, as amended at the meeting (ECE/MP.PP/2017/CRP.8). Interventions on the subject were made by Belarus, the European Union, Norway, and the European ECO Forum.

Report on Credentials with regards to the Convention's Parties

The report on credentials was presented by Ms. Beate Berglund Ekeberg, Vice-Chairperson of the Meeting of the Parties. The Meeting of the Parties approved the report on credentials and noted that a quorum for decision-making had been reached. 

Election of Officers and other Members of the Bureau

The Meeting of the Parties elected by consensus the Chairperson, Ms. Maia Bitadze (nominated by Georgia), Vice-Chairpersons, Ms. Beate Berglund Ekeberg (nominated by Norway) and Ms. Nicolette Bouman (nominated by the Netherlands), and the remaining members of the Bureau: Ms. Angelika Wiedner (nominated by the European Union), Ms. Chiara Landini (nominated by Italy), Ms. Maryna Shymkus (nominated by Ukraine) and Ms. Malaj Enkelejda (nominated by Albania). The MOP took note of the appointment by the European ECO Forum of Mr. Jeremy Wates to attend the meetings of the Bureau, as observer, representing the NGOs.

Date an Venue of the Seventh Ordinary Session

The MOP decided to hold its next ordinary session in 2021 and mandated the Working Group of the Parties to consider at its next meeting a possible date and venue.

 


 

Open Dialogue of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee

A two-hour open dialogue session with the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee was held on Wednesday, 13 September 2017, during the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP). The open dialogue session was open to all Parties and stakeholders, and interpretation was provided. Opening the session, the Chair of the Compliance Committee, Mr. Jonas Ebbesson (Sweden), recalled that a similar session had been held during the fifth session of the Meeting of the Parties in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Mr Ebbesson explained that the purpose of the session was to provide a platform for discussing the Committee’s working methods, in particular to identify how its procedures might be made more efficient and effective, while at all times ensuring that those procedures remain fair and in accordance with due process. 

The topics addressed included, among others: exhaustion of domestic remedies, the Committee’s procedure for dealing with new communications; deadlines in compliance procedures; use of audio- and video- conferencing and the Committee’s procedures for follow-up on MOP decisions on compliance. The Committee provided some suggestions to Parties, communicants and observers on how they might more effectively engage with the compliance procedure and also informed those present of the opportunity to provide comments on the draft revised Guide to the Committee by 1 November 2017. 

 


 

Joint High-Level Segment under the Meetings of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol on PRTRs

 

 

 

The Joint High-Level Segment of the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP 6) to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters and the third session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (MOPP 3) on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs) convened on Thursday, 14 September, in Budva, Montenegro.

Following a short musical introduction, the Joint High-Level Segment (JHLS) began with a welcome address by H.E. Mr. Pavle Radulović, Minister for Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro, who chaired the segment. Then, Mr. Ivan Brajović, President of Parliament of Montenegro, delivered a welcome statement where he stressed the strategic decision of Montenegro, as the first country in the world to have declared itself as an Ecological State, to respect the highest standards of environmental protection, and harmonize them with long-term national social and economic interests. By doing this, Montenegro acknowledged its debt to nature, and its dedication to protecting it in the name of its own survival and the future of its descendants. Recognizing the principles enshrined in the Aarhus Convention as fundamental human rights, the President of the Parliament of Montenegro underlined the importance of the Aarhus Convention in strengthening basic democratic principles and in defining the future direction of sustainable development. Mr. Brajović stressed the need to develop an appropriate “ecological” infrastructure to create a healthy environment and achieve implementation of the SDGs. He finally recalled that it is particularly important to improve the transparency of governance in timely provision of information to the interested public and to enhance the public's ability to influence the work of public administration at an early stage of the decision-making process. 

Then Ms. Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of UNECE, made a welcome statement, in which she stressed the relevance of democracy, good governance and the rule of law to sustainable development. She recalled the crucial importance of protecting environmental activists and whistle-blowers. Ms. Algayerova also welcomed the initiative to promote the “Aarhus principles” in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. Finally, she urged Parties and stakeholders to embrace the principles of transparency, accountability and just societies enshrined in both the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol, as they are paramount for the daily lives and well-being of all people. 

Report on Credentials with regard to the Protocol's Parties

Further to the adoption of the provisional agenda for the JHLS (ECE/MP.PP/2017/15–ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/1), Parties approved the report on the credentials with regard to the Protocol’s Parties presented by the Vice Chair of the Bureau of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol, Mr. Øyvind Hetland, noting that quorum for decision-making was reached.  

Thematic Session on the Role of the Convention and its Protocol in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals 

The thematic session of the Joint High-level Segment was chaired by the Executive Secretary of UNECE, Ms Olga Algayerova. In her brief introduction, the Chair of the thematic session underlined that environment is at the heart of sustainable development and that the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol on PRTRs are key in ensuring the implementation of all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and especially Goal 16. She further stressed that the thematic session discussion and the Budva Declaration would offer an opportunity to showcase how Governments, international organizations, NGOs and other stakeholders can contribute to achieving the SDGs through an inclusive and participatory process.

Held in the “Davos style”, the first panel discussion included H.E. Mr. Pavle Radulović, Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism, Montenegro; Mr. Harry Liiv, Deputy Minister of Environment, Estonia; H.E. Ambassador Vuk Žugić, Co-ordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities, OSCE; and Mr. Jeremy Wates, representative of the European ECO Forum and Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). Invited by the Chair, the panellists shared their experience with regards to the implementation of the Aarhus Convention principles in decision-making related to the implementation of the SDGs, the outcomes achieved, any good practices, challenges and lessons learned that might also benefit other Parties.

Mr. Pavle Radulović started by evoking the establishment of the first regional park “PIVA” as an example of a participatory approach adopted to sustainable development decision-making. This proved that public participation leads to acceptable agreements and solutions, and that transparency forms the basis for the success of any initiative. Indeed, in this case, provision of adequate information reduced the risk of arbitrary assumptions that could lead to negative outcomes. In addition, public participation helped build a communal spirit. Those lessons learned encouraged the Government to further communicate with citizens. 

Mr. Harry Liiv elaborated on how access to environmental information and public participation contributed to the implementation of water-related SDGs in Estonia. He gave one specific example of the implementation of the principles of the Aarhus Convention through a national water price control mechanism, which not only allowed to ensure availability and sustainable management of drinking water and sanitation, as well as a fair and sustainable water price, but also guaranteed the right for the public to access courts to challenge water price and obliged water companies to disclose information through annual reports. 

Mr. Vuk Žugić outlined the activities of the Aarhus Centres’ network in the 15 years that have passed since their establishment. Underlining the close link between sustainable development and peace, he stated that addressing environment and security challenges required dialogue between countries and active involvement of all stakeholders in relevant decision-making. Through their mandate to raise public awareness of environmental issues, the Aarhus Centres became a platform for dialogue, and thus, a bridge between civil society and governmental authorities.

Mr. Žugić then enumerated the OSCE’s priorities for the future, such as strengthening the regional and sub-regional networking and cooperation among the centres, as well as supporting them in their engagement in the implementation of the SDGs. 

Mr. Jeremy Wates started by reminding the audience of the current unfavourable political context for environmental policies, as well as some existential threats from, for instance, climate change. He underlined the importance of successful implementation of the SDGs, and the crucial role of the public and the NGOs in this ambitious process. He noted the interrelation between the SDG-16 and the Aarhus Convention, as both aimed to create just and peaceful societies. Given the importance of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, he confirmed the willingness of the NGOs to contribute to the process. 

Followed interventions from the floor, starting with a speech from the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative in Montenegro, Ms. Fiona McCluney, on the implementation of the SDGs. Then, Ms. Nino Gokhelashvili, representing Georgia, underlined that the Aarhus Convention was helping achieve almost all the SDGs and confirmed the commitment of Georgia to pursue the implementation of the Convention. She also mentioned activities undertaken so far, such as the establishment of the Environmental Information and Education Centre and the adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code and the Waste Management Code. Mr. Florian Wild, delegate from Switzerland, confirmed the great emphasis placed by his country on the issue of sustainable development and viewed the Budva Declaration's commitment to promote environmental democracy as essential precondition for achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda and for building a sustainable future. Based on the country’s experience, he stressed the importance of an inclusive and transparent involvement of civil society in this process. Finally, Ms. Eija Lumme, representative of Finland, informed that the country had actively started to take national measures to implement the 2030 Agenda, notably by adopting, in February 2017, a National Implementation Plan for the 2030 Agenda, which expressed the Government’s political will and set concrete measures for putting the Agenda 2030 into practice. Evoking the recent establishment of a Youth Agenda 2030 Group, she stressed the importance of translating the global goals to national policies and measures to help different actors to understand what global goals mean to the country, and enable commitment and ownership for action. 

The second panel discussion gathered Mr. Per Ängquist, State Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, Sweden; Mr. Mykola Kuzio, Deputy Minister for European Integration, Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, Ukraine; Mr. Mihail Dimovski, Executive Director, Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe (REC CEE) and Mr. Stanko Zloković, Vice-President of the Chamber of Economy of Montenegro

Mr. Per Ängquist presented the ongoing Swedish initiatives aiming to achieve the SDGs using public access to environmental information through educational tools. Indeed, noting an increasing interest from youth to have the right to speak, Sweden considered important to focus more on environmental matters in the educational programme. Also, the authorities created a brochure, “Sverige I siffror” (EN: “Sweden in figures”) to offer information on indicators to the public. 

Mr. Mykola Kuzio presented the initiatives “the Black Sea Save Book” and ecomapa.gov.ua, whose purpose was not only to raise awareness, but also to create a space where everyone could contribute. The initiatives resulted from the Government’s will to increase prioritization of environmental issues and to create platforms for reform coalitions, as well as tools and instruments to participate. He also mentioned the next areas for action, namely a public administration reform, a national IT system, and a secondary legislation and practice. 

Mr. Mihail Dimovski then summarised the work carried out by the REC CEE in South-Eastern Europe to improve access to justice with wide support from a number of stakeholders. Whereas REC’s objective was to enhance awareness of administrative bodies and courts about the mechanisms of access to justice under the Aarhus Convention, the activities also led to improving knowledge on the Convention. REC will continue its activities towards the implementation of the Aarhus Convention and the SDGs, especially in Belarus, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, focusing on supporting the local efforts and the development of a legal policy and institutional framework. Focus will also be given to access to justice, given the difficulties the citizens encounter when contacting the judiciary system.

Mr. Stanko Zloković informed that the authorities in Montenegro aimed to implement the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention in their daily activities, encouraging entrepreneurship to follow the same path and address several SDGs. To give an example, he elaborated on the Low Carbon Tourism and the National Cleaner Production Programme, which involved already 13 companies in the country. As a result, the programme was not only creating “green jobs”, but also leading to reduced consumption of water, electricity and fuel oil, and to decreasing the CO2 emissions. 

The speeches of the panellists were followed by a short intervention from OECD representative Mr. Robert Diderich, who stressed the potential of PRTRs to serve as a key tool for the assessment and promotion of progress towards several SDGs and especially target 12.4 on environmentally sound management of chemicals and wastes. He thus encouraged all countries to integrate harmonized elements when establishing or revising their PRTRs, so as to foster enhanced international comparability of PRTR data. In response to questions from the Chair, Mr. Pavle Radulović proved his optimism as to achieving the SDGs by the 2030 “deadline”, just as Mr. Harry Liiv, who considered possible for the principles of the Aarhus Convention to be applied in other sectors and for the SDGs to be transparent and more inclusive. Then, the Chair concluded the thematic session.

Budva Declaration on Environmental Democracy for our Sustainable Future

H.E. Mr. Pavle Radulović opened the discussion on the Budva Declaration on Environmental Democracy for Our Sustainable Future (ECE/MP.PP/201717-ECE/MP.PP/2017/3).

H.E. Mr. Kęstutis Navickas, Minister of Environment, Lithuania, welcomed the Budva Declaration and informed on the actions undertaken in the country. He expressed regret over cases of constant violations of the rights of public concerned and environmental activists in several countries and invited all the Parties, especially those in non-compliance with their obligations under the Convention, to respect the principles of transparency, openness and inclusiveness in environmental decision-making. 

H.E. Ms. Graţiela-Leocadia Gavrilescu, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Environment of Romania, noted the improvement of access to information in the country, but recognized the need to train officials, which was an on-going process, with the delivery of publications covering a variety of areas. She pointed to the fact that protecting environment was one of the main policies to be promoted, notably to prevent pollution. 

H.E. Mr. Goran Trivan, Minister of Environmental Protection, Serbia, started by inviting all the countries from the region to achieve the SDGs, and to do so, he stressed the need to ensure effective communication and cooperation between stakeholders, including the civil society. For this last point, and for solving individual environmental problems, Serbia was allocating specific financial resources. The country was also making efforts to facilitate access to justice. 

H.E. Mr. Antonio Serifo Embalo, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Guinea-Bissau, pointed to the expansion of democratic principles in the field of environmental matters in his country, but also recalled vulnerability to the effects of climate change. He confirmed the country’s strong will to accede to the Aarhus Convention and welcomed the Budva Declaration as a source of inspiration that will further enhance the application of all three pillars of the Convention. 

Referring to the Budva Declaration, Mr. Norbert Kurilla, State Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Slovakia, stated that the Declaration symbolically opens the door for a better and more sustainable future and stressed that in spite of the differences between national goals and priorities, the ultimate goal of nations remains the same: ensuring decent quality of life in harmony with nature.

Mr. Nicolas Fairise, representing France, affirmed that the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol usefully contribute to sustainable development and further described how France recently strengthened its measures for environmental democracy, which is at the core of the Budva Declaration.

Mr. Harry Liiv, speaking on behalf of the European Union and its member states, expressed the Union’s support to the Budva Declaration, which resulted from a constructive discussion between Parties, signatories and stakeholders. Stating that sustainable development was at the core of European Union’s actions and remained its objective, he reaffirmed the commitment of the European Union to implement the principles of the Convention and the Protocol. 

Ms. Haykanush Parsamyan, representing Armenia, stated that the Budva Declaration was a starting point for environmental democracy and a crucial step for the implementation of the Aarhus Convention by promoting equality, freedom, human rights and rights of nature. She added that it was time to prepare society for an equal understanding and implementation of the principles of the Convention, ensuring that environmental democracy standards would dominate and determine the development in Armenia.

Mr. Milos Popovic, Head of the UN Resident Coordinator’s Team, delivered a statement on behalf of Mr. John Knox, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, in which he stated that the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention were at the forefront of environmental efforts and that the MOP6 had accomplished another milestone in this endeavour. To conclude, he added that the protection of the environmental activists should be addressed as a priority.

Mr. Robert Diderich, Head of the Health and Safety Division at OECD, welcomed the Budva Declaration and confirmed the organization’s readiness to play a role, in close collaboration with UNECE, as a source of expertise, data, and good practices in establishing and implementing PRTR.

Ms. Sulhiya Sodiqova stated, on behalf of all Aarhus Centres, that despite the fact there were sixty centres in different cities and countries, they had a lot in common when it came to environmental protection. By providing a link between civil society and authorities, they have been contributing to environmental democracy. She stated that the Budva Declaration would reinforce the transparency principle and facilitate the accomplishment of the remaining ones by 2030.

Mr. Vadim Ni delivered a statement on behalf of the Ecoforum of NGOs of Kazakhstan and Crude Accountability, focusing on the issue of harassment of environmental activists, without which, the principles of the Convention would just remain on paper. He referred to Parties which were not in compliance with the Aarhus Convention, and called on urgent action to protect environmental defenders. 

Ms. Tatsiana Novikava, representing the NGO ECOHOME, urged Parties to respect environmental human rights and expressed regret over the fact that Belarus did not comply with the Convention.The adoption of the Draft Budva Declaration on Environmental Democracy for Our Sustainable Future (ECE/MP.PP/2017/17–ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/3) was followed by a surprise cultural presentation. 

Review and Adoption of Decisions of the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention

The Chair of the JHLS chaired this agenda item. She invited the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention to review the draft decisions that were provisionally adopted at the general segment. Based on the discussions under the preceding agenda items, the Meeting of the Parties formally adopted all decisions with the exception of the draft decision VI/8 (f) on compliance by European Union (ECE/MP.PP/2017/25), which was postponed to the next ordinary session of the Meeting of the Parties to be held in 2021. The Meeting of the Parties adopted the other major outcomes presented at the meeting (contained in ECE/MP.PP/2017/CRP.9) and requested the secretariat, in consultation with the Chair of the Meeting of the Parties, to finalize the session’s report and to incorporate the adopted outcomes and decisions.

Closure of the Joint High-Level Segment

In a closing remark, Mr. Jeremy Wates, speaking on behalf of the European ECO Forum, expressed his deep regret over the non-compliance of the European Union with the provisions of the Convention. He noted, however, that the integrity of the Compliance Committee was maintained. To conclude, he urged the European Union to listen to the feedback it received from the Budva meeting and to swiftly take the measures needed to bring the European Union back into compliance.

Another representative from the European ECO forum called on the Parties to take the necessary steps, and give priority to cases of harassment of environmental activists, which took place, for instance in Belarus, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The representative concluded that for the Budva Declaration to have a meaning, it was important to turn words into action.

The Executive Secretary of UNECE, Ms. Olga Algayerova, in her closing remarks, expressed her gratitude to the Government of Montenegro for its generosity of hosting the meetings, and to UNDP and OSCE for their seamless support to the organization of the event. Then, H.E. Mr. Pavle Radulović closed the meeting mentioning the challenges we face and the role of the Budva Declaration in the promotion of environmental democracy. 


 

The third session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers

The third session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (MOPP 3) on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs) to the Aarhus Convention continued on Friday, 15 September.

The Chair of the MOPP 3, Ms. Tina Skårman, opened the session expressing her gratitude to the Government of Montenegro for hosting the Meeting of the Parties. She then introduced the annotated provisional agenda for the general segment of the third session (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/5), which was adopted by the Meeting of the Parties. 

Status of Ratification of the Protocol

The secretariat informed the delegates that since the second session of the Meeting of the Parties to the PRTR Protocol in 2014, the number of Parties had increased to 35, with ratifications by Ukraine (on 2 May 2016) and Malta (on 20 May 2016). 

Delegations were invited to report on recent developments in that regard. Mr. Milos Sekulovic, representative of Montenegro, informed that the parliamentary procedures for ratification of the Protocol had been completed a month ago and that further steps would be taken soon for the formal submission of the instrument of ratification. Then, Mr. Alex Radway, speaking on behalf of the European Union, encouraged the remaining signatories and other interested States to become Party to the Protocol.

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties, welcomed ratifications by Ukraine and Malta, and the progress achieved by Montenegro in its national ratification process and encouraged Signatories and other interested States to proceed with the accession to the Protocol as soon as possible.

Promotion and Capacity Building

Coordination mechanisms and synergies

Chair Skårman referred to several forums where coordination had taken place and invited the Chair of the International PRTRs coordinating group (ICG), Mr. Iñigo De Vicente-Mingarro, to present its recent activities. 

Mr. De Vicente-Mingarro started by reminding the role of PRTRs in the promotion of good governance and in the implementation of the SDGs. He suggested ways to promote the PRTRs and encouraged the organization of the joint Global Round Tables in the future.

Then, Mr. Robert Diderich, representing the OECD, reminded the participants that the role of the Organization’s activities on PRTRs was to improve the registers and harmonize them across the world, as well as to enhance the use of their data. In this context, Mr. Diderich elaborated on the two resource compendia of release estimation techniques recently published by the OECD (one on techniques to estimate off-site transfers and the other one on techniques to estimate releases from products). At the time of the meeting, another compendium on techniques to estimate releases from non-point source was being reviewed and was expected to be finalized in 2018. Mr. Diderich added that the OECD was also exploring the promotion of the use of PRTR data both internationally and locally, and that it had published the "Guidance Document on Elements of a PRTR”, which the Parties were encouraged to use, so that the PRTRs data were comparable between countries.

Mr. Andrea Cararo, speaking on behalf of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and UNEP, presented their global project aiming to improve access and accuracy of environmental data on Persistent Organic Pollutants, among other priority chemicals, and to enhance awareness and public participation on environmental matters through the implementation of national PRTRs in six countries, namely: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Republic of Moldova, Cambodia, Ecuador and Peru. Its main outcome was the design of PRTR systems in all participating countries. Mr. Cararo reminded that PRTRs could, through synergies, serve different purposes and different national obligations. In addition, he identified several initiatives by other partners that could allow for important synergies with the ongoing UNITAR/UNEP global project. Finally, he stated that UNITAR was looking forward to exploring new opportunities with a variety of stakeholders willing to strengthen the potential of PRTRs as tools for emission reduction, monitoring, reporting and effective environmental information systems.  

The MOPP 3 then considered the Report on the second Global Round Table on Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (ECE/MP.PRTR/WG.1/2016/7) and took note of its outcomes. Further to interventions by the European Union and Switzerland, the Parties mandated the Bureau and the secretariat to organize a third global event during the next intersessional period.

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties took note of the report by the Chair of the International Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR) Coordinating Group (ICG) on its activities since the previous session of the Meeting of the Parties as well as of statements by Governments and other partner organizations. The Meeting of the Parties  thanked for the support they had provided to furthering implementation of PRTRs systems thereby strengthening countries’ capacities to accede to the Protocol on PRTRs. Taking note of the  outcomes of the joint Global Round Table on PRTRs it mandated the Bureau and the secretariat to organize a third global event in the next intersessional period. It further called upon Governments, partner organizations and multilateral environmental agreements (e.g. UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes and the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution) to cooperate closely, where possible, to create synergies that further the implementation of the projects and programmes related to PRTRs and ensure coordination at national level. The Meeting of the Parties also mandated the Bureau and the secretariat to continue global promotion of the Protocol and called upon Parties and stakeholders to consider implementation of the Protocol and Shared Environmental Information Systems in synergy.

Technical resources and sub-regional and national activities

The Chair presented outcomes of the second sub-regional workshop “Get Your Right to a Healthy Community” hosted by Belarus in September 2016, contained in the report (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/7). Its purpose was to promote the implementation and ratification of the Protocol, also through explaining the synergies with the Air Convention and its protocols on data collecting and reporting.  

In an ensuing speech, Mr. Ivan Narkevitch, delegate from Belarus, provided additional information on the workshop. He stated that the workshop provided a platform for the Parties to set priorities and that the discussions focused on improving public access to data and on issues such as financial constraints, absence of qualified staff and restricted willingness from industry to share information. He underscored the commitment of Belarus by having, for instance, developed a considerable PRTR database - even if it was not a Party to the Protocol. 

Croatia then reported on the efforts that it had made in terms of capacity building related to PRTRs. The country now achieved a higher data quality, e.g. through the use of so-called ‘cross-pollutants’ checks, and through the use of information technology tools for calculation of emissions to air. 

Ms. Magdolna Tothne Nagy, representing the Regional Environment Centre in Central  and Eastern Europe (REC CEE), reported on recent activities, notably a stakeholder event, whose purpose was to discuss the status of development and the initiatives to implement PRTRs. REC CEE was also cooperating with national focal points and other stakeholders, undertaking capacity building activities and preparing elements for an informative web portal. She added that the Centre had established synergies in the framework of ongoing projects and realized a feasibility study to determine the next steps of development of the registers. 

Speaking on behalf of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the European ECO Forum, Mr. Christian Schaible presented possible good practice approaches with some concrete recommendations on how existing industrial pollution web portals could be improved, based on the research the EEB had carried out on various European Union online access portals on industrial activities. The research mainly focused on permits, compliance reports, search functions and enhanced public participation options. Mr. Schaible recommended following the example of the Norwegian PRTR and the Irish industrial production web portal, considered as best practice examples. In terms of effective online reporting of data on industrial installations, he gave the example of the Air Markets Program Data developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Finally, the European Union expressed its support for future opportunities for capacity building and encouraged the use and the development of electronic tools for disseminating information. 

The Chair then brought to the attention of the delegations the note on Technical assistance and resources (ECE/MP.PP/WG.1/2016/12), as well as information on the use of electronic tools at the country level, as contained in the national implementation reports and the relevant sections of the Report on the implementation of the work programme of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers for 2015-2017 (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/8) and the synthesis report (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/10). 

Further, the secretariat presented the global portal that links to the information on PRTRs, including websites on relevant activities in countries, which is available from prtr.unece.org. 

Then, Mr. Andrea Cararo presented, on behalf of UNITAR and the OECD, the new platform prtrt.unitar.org, which aims to gather a variety of resources including training materials, PRTRs guidelines, interactive map with countries’ information and ongoing projects, latest news on PRTR-related events and workshops. It allows different stakeholders, ranging from government officials, international experts and national consultants to civil society, to engage through a forum and share PRTR knowledge, experiences and lessons learned, or ask questions and find answers. Mr. Cararo also mentioned the IOMC Toolbox, a problem-solving tool that enables countries to identify the most appropriate, efficient and cost-effective solutions to national chemicals management issues. 

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties took note of the statements by Governments, NGOs and other partner organizations and noted with regret that little progress had been achieved in establishing pollutant release and transfer register systems and in furthering ratification of the Protocol in the countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It called upon decision-makers and policymakers of the countries of the subregion to make the necessary commitments to improve the situation and called upon countries and partner organizations to support capacity building activities as to advance establishing pollutant release and transfer register systems and in furthering ratification of the Protocol. Taking note of the outcomes of the second subregional workshop “Get Your Right to a Healthy Community”, the Meeting of the Parties expressed its appreciation to the secretariat of the Air Convention, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus and the Belarusian Research Centre “Ecology” for their effective cooperation in the organization of the workshop. Finally, the Meeting of the Parties welcomed the upgrade of PRTR.net implemented by the secretariat and requested the secretariat, OECD and UNITAR to continue working closely as to ensure the effective use of PRTR.net and PRTR-Learn.  

Reporting and Compliance Mechanism

Reporting mechanism

The MOPP 3 Chair introduced the synthesis report on the implementation of the Protocol with the overview of progress in implementing the strategic plan for 2015–2020 (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/10), and a draft decision III/1 on reporting requirements (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/12). 

Mr. Alistair McGlone, Chair of the PRTRs Protocol Compliance Committee, reported on the status of implementation of the Protocol. He stated that most Parties made all the PRTR data available through electronic means and aimed to make the data user-friendly, although it was not the case for all of them. Regarding access to information, nearly all reporting countries had sufficient legal framework to handle requests for administrative and judicial review procedures with regard to a denial of access to PRTR information. The protection of whistle-blowers was widely perceived as a fundamental part of the Parties’ existing law and constitution, but only a few Parties reported on practical measures to protect those activists. As to reporting and sources of data, there was little information on record keeping, data storage and using the best available option. However, almost all Parties were more extensive than what was requested by the Protocol. The Compliance Committee Chair also evoked confidentiality, public participation in the development of PRTRs and capacity building, as well as challenges to be addressed and the work to be done to improve the PRTRs. Finally, he informed that Cyprus, Malta, Slovenia and Ukraine failed to submit reports in the requested format, whereas Hungary submitted it late.

Followed a short intervention by Malta and one from the EEB, calling for shortening the deadlines for publishing information in the national PRTRs, given the technological progress observed. In response to this initiative, Mr. Roland Ritter, who represented Switzerland, informed that the existing deadline was necessary, given the Swiss federal system, which implies contacting many stakeholders before having the final information. Then, the European Union thanked the Compliance Committee for the report and recognized the importance of having a clear guidance in the matter. 

Final Outcome

Taking note of statements by Governments, NGOs and partner organizations, as well as of information provided in national implementation reports submitted by Parties, and of the synthesis report (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/10) on the status of implementation of the Protocol by Parties presented by the Chair of the Compliance Committee, the Meeting of the Parties recognized the need for timely submission of national implementation reports in order to ensure a good quality of the synthesis report and its timely submission for translation and noted with regret that five Parties did not submit their reports by the set deadline. It further urged Parties that did not submit their national implementation reports, namely Cyprus, Malta, Slovenia and Ukraine to do so by latest 15 November 2017.  Finally, the Meeting of the Parties adopted the decision on reporting requirements (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/12) amending its paragraph 6 to read as follows “Notes with regret that Cyprus, Malta, Slovenia and Ukraine, all of which were Parties to the Protocol at the time of the deadline for submission of the implementation reports, failed to submit reports.

Compliance mechanism

Mr. Alistair McGlone reported on the activities of the Compliance Committee since the last session of the Meeting of the Parties, in 2014. He started by reminding the mandate of the Compliance Committee and noted that there were no submissions by Parties, nor referrals by the secretariat, nor communications from the public since the previous session of the Meeting of the Parties. He thus moved to present the guidance for reporting on the Protocol implementation, which is facilitative and based on the contributions provided by the members of the Committee and on comments made by Parties. The Compliance Committee Chair then referred to the systemic issues concerning implementation. He concluded by reminding the availability of the Committee to provide support to the Parties at various levels. 

The European Union thanked the Committee for preparing the documents, expressed its support, and encouraged the Parties to pursue their endeavour.

Then, the MOPP 3 addressed the election of the Compliance Committee members. Chair Skårman informed that five nominations were received in time, and a sixth one, after the deadline. The European Union delivered a statement supporting the consideration of all six nominations, 

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties took note of the report of the Chair of the Compliance Committee on the Committee’s activities since the second session of the Meeting of the Parties and thanked the Compliance Committee for the work done. It further expressed its appreciation to Mr. Alistair McGlone, the outgoing Chair of the Compliance Committee, for his commitment and skilled chairmanship and Ms. Barbara Rathmer, outgoing member of the Compliance Committee, for her professional support to the Committee’s work. The Meeting of the Parties also endorsed the Guidance for reporting on implementation of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers and the document on Systemic issues concerning the implementation of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers and recommendations on how to address them (both prepared by the Compliance Committee). Finally, the Meeting of the Parties re-elected the Compliance Committee members: Mr. Gor Movsisyan (nominated by Belgium), Mr. Fritz Kroiss (nominated by Austria); Ms. Nataša Kačić-Bartulović (nominated by Croatia) and elected the following new Compliance Committee members: Mr. Nicolas Encausse (nominated by France), Ms. Azemine Shakiri (nominated by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), and Mr. Juan Luis Martín Ortega (nominated by Spain).

Programme of Work and Operation of the Protocol

Implementation of the work programme for 2015–2017

The Parties to the Protocol considered the Report on the implementation of the work programme of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers for 2015–2017 (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/8) and the Report on contributions and expenditures in relation to the implementation of the Protocol’s work programme for 2015–2017 (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/9) prepared by the secretariat. The secretariat thanked the Parties for their contributions, recognizing that some two thirds of them contributed more than the minimum amount, allowing the secretariat to work efficiently. 

In response, Switzerland made a pledge as to its future contribution. The European ECO Forum expressed its regret over the fact that not many countries - and none from outside the UNECE region - had ratified the Protocol, despite of the efforts made by the secretariat. The representative expressed the Forum’s support to the Budva Declaration, hoping that countries will take it very seriously into account, along with updating and extending the list of pollutants. She concluded by thanking everyone involved in the work on PRTRs and confirmed the NGO’s availability to help.

Statements were also delivered by the European Union and the REC CEE thanking the secretariat for the reports on the expenditures and the implementation of work programme. 

Final Outcome

Taking  note of the report on the implementation of the work programme of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers for 2015–2017 (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/8), of the Report on contributions and expenditures in relation to the implementation of the Protocol’s work programme for 2015–2017 (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/9) and of relevant statements by Governments, NGOs and partner organizations, the Meeting of the Parties warmly thanked Parties for their financial and in-kind contributions and expressed great appreciation for the in kind-contributions provided by partner organizations and expressed its appreciation for the work done by the secretariat and recognized the difficulties posed by limited and unpredictable funding.

Progress in implementing the strategic plan for 2015–2020

The Chair of the PRTRs Protocol Compliance Committee, Mr. Alistair McGlone, presented highlights in the implementation of the strategic plan for 2015-2020. After presenting its focal areas, and to what extent they were covered in the national implementation reports,  he concluded that Parties had more work done regarding the implementation of the Protocol (focal area I of the strategic plan for 2015-2020) than in terms of lifting barriers to ratification and expansion beyond the ECE region (focal area II), and of development of the Protocol (focal area III). He added that there were no concrete indicators allowing to evaluate the success of the Protocol Thus, he invited the MOPP to approve a proposal to evaluate the effectiveness and success of the Protocol, and, where appropriate, to build on the methodology already used at the international level. He also recommended for it to be an inclusive and participatory process, with comments from stakeholders overseen by the Bureau and the Working Group. The European Union, Switzerland and REC made statements. 

Final Outcome

Taking note of statements by Governments and other partner organizations and of the report of the Chair of Compliance Committee on the Committee’s activities related to the overview of progress in implementing the strategic plan for 2015–2020 (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/10, annex I), including the evaluation of the success of the Protocol and the development of relevant indicators (ECE/MP.PRTR/C.1/2017/2, annex), the Meeting of the Parties requested the secretariat to organize a survey among Parties in order to collect the information related to the progress of implementing the strategic plan that is not provided through the national implementation reports. It also and mandated the Bureau and the Working Group, taking into account the outcome of the survey, to further look into the focal areas of the strategic plan with the aim to identify where further action is needed to successfully implement the targets of the strategic plan by 2021 and also requested the Bureau and the Working Group to prepare a possible future strategic plan for the period of 2021-2029 taking into account the overview of progress in implementing the strategic plan for 2015-2020 and the outcome of the survey and related work. The Bureau was also requested to consider the added value and resource implications of a possible evaluation of the success of the Protocol and the development of relevant indicators referred to in the report of the Compliance Committee on its fifth meeting (ECE/MP.PRTR/C.1/2017/2, annex) and, if appropriate, present a detailed proposal, for consideration by the Working Group at its next meeting. 

Future work programme 

MOPP 3 Chair Skårman introduced the draft decision III/2 on the work programme for 2018-2021 for the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/13). The European Union and the REC made statements. 

Final Outcome

The Meeting of the Parties adopted draft decision III/2 on the work programme for 2018–2021 for the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/13).

Financial arrangements 

The Chair introduced the draft decision III/3 on financial arrangements under the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (ECE/MM.PRTR/2017/11). The European Union, Norway and Switzerland made statements.

Final Outcome 

The Meeting of the Parties adopted the draft decision III/3 on financial arrangements under the Protocol as amended at the meeting (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/CRP.2). 

Election of Officers and Other Members of the Bureau

Regarding the election of officers and other members of the Bureau, the Meeting of the Parties thanked the outgoing members for their work, and elected by consensus Ms. Tina Skårman (nominated by Sweden) as Chair; Ms. Ulrike Schüler (nominated by Germany) and Ms. Marie-Rose Van den Hende (nominated by Belgium) as Vice-Chairs. It also elected by consensus Mr. Alex Radway (nominated by the EU), Mr. Nebosja Redzic (nominated by Serbia), Mr. Roland Ritter (nominated by Switzerland) and Ms. Lesya Karnaukh (nominated by Ukraine) as members of the Bureau. It took note of appointment by the European ECO Forum of Ms. Mara Silina to attend the meetings of the Bureau as an NGO observer. 

The European Union thanked all the Parties for the nominations submitted and congratulated to the persons elected. 

Date and Venue for the next Meeting

Regarding the date and venue of the fourth ordinary session, the Chair reminded it should be held sequentially with or parallel to ordinary sessions of the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention, unless otherwise decided by the Parties to the Protocol. The Meeting of the Parties decided to hold its next ordinary session in 2021 and mandated the Working Group of the Parties to consider a possible date and venue for the fourth session at its next meeting. 

Review and Adoption of Decisions and Closure of the Meeting

The MOPP reviewed and adopted all the major outcomes and decisions presented by the Chair at the session (ECE/MP.PRTR/2017/CRP.2) and requested the secretariat, in consultation with the Chair, to finalize the report and incorporate these outcomes and decisions. 

In its closing statement, the European Union thanked the Government of Montenegro for hosting the MOP 6 and MOPP 3, and the organizers for their great work, and congratulated the Parties on the adoption of the Budva Declaration along with other important decisions, urging them to further promote the PRTRs at a global level. Finally, the Chair thanked the Government of Montenegro for hosting the meetings and the interpreters, for their work, and closed the session. 

Two side events complemented the programme of the day, addressing the advancement of PRTRs in the Western Balkans and in Republic of Moldova, and the capacity to make the pollution data understandable to the citizens.