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Sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) – general segment

 

Daily Summary
Wednesday, 13 September 2017

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) continued on Wednesday, 13 September, in Budva, Montenegro.

During the morning session, the MOP addressed the promotion of the Convention and relevant developments and interlinkages, starting with accession to the Convention by States from outside the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region. The Convention secretariat reported that following the expression of interest by Guinea-Bissau in accession to the Convention, the secretariat was assisting the country in its efforts. In the ensuing discussion, the European ECO Forum invited the Parties to streamline the accession process and remove additional requirements for States from outside the UNECE.

Regarding the promotion of the Convention’s principles, Mr. Etienne Ballan (France), Chair of the thematic session on the Promotion of the Principles of the Convention in International Forums (PPIF), held in the framework of the meetings of the Working Group of the Parties, reported on the topics covered since MOP 5, underlining the advantages of the chosen format, and listing the areas to be given priority in the future work. In his keynote speech, Mr. Hakan Lucius, from the European Investment Bank (EIB), elaborated on the application of transparency in the EIB activities, and how it encouraged public participation. In an ensuing keynote statement, Mr. Sébastien Duyck, representing the European ECO Forum, urged the delegates to promote the principles of the Convention proactively and in an effective manner. The MOP considered and provisionally adopted a draft decision on promoting the application of the principles of the Convention in international forums. The MOP expressed its appreciation to Mr. Ballan, the outgoing Chair, and warmly welcomed Ms. Laura Michel (France), the new Chair of the thematic session on PPIF.

The MOP turned to synergies between the Convention and other relevant multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and other partners. The Chair briefly summarized the outcomes of the five UNECE MEAs informal coordination processes. Then, Ms. Jenniver Sehring, from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), reported inter alia 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.

The consideration on global and regional developments on issues related to Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, started with a video message by Mr. Joséluis Samaniego, Director of the Sustainable Development Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Mr. Samaniego 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. 

Followed an update on United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiatives on access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters by its representative, Ms. Eva Duer. These included the co-organization of the IUCN World Environmental Law Congress in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and strong promotion of the environmental rule of law.

With regards to the 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. 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.  

As to the 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. Further, MOP 6 considered and provisionally adopted a draft decision on the work programme for 2018–2021.

Regarding the financial arrangements, after considering the proposed document, the Meeting of the Parties provisionally adopted the draft decision on financial arrangements with amendments.

As to its seventh ordinary session, the MOP decided it would be held in 2021, and that a possible date and venue would be considered at the next meeting of the Working Group of the Parties. Further, Ms. Beate Berglund Ekeberg, Vice-Chairperson of the Meeting of the Parties, presented the report on credentials, which confirmed that quorum had been reached following submission of credentials by the Parties.

Turning to the election of the new 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). It also 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.

Then, the MOP elected by consensus the officers and other members of the Bureau: 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 of Mr. Jeremy Wates as observer, representing the NGOs.

Finally, the Chair closed the general segment of the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties.

In addition, an Open Dialogue of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee took place earlier during the day, to provide a platform for discussing the Committee’s working methods to identify how its procedures may be made more efficient and effective, while at all times ensuring that those procedures remain fair and in accordance with due process.