UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Press Release


Parties to the UNECE Aarhus Convention hold second meeting

(Almaty, Kazakhstan, 25-27 May 2005)

Geneva, 24 May 2005 - The Parties to the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters will hold their second meeting in Almaty on 25-27 May 2005.1 Adopted under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE),2 the Aarhus Convention is widely viewed as the world’s most far-reaching treaty on environmental rights. The meeting is aimed at strengthening environmental democracy through effective implementation of the Convention.

Among the key topics on the agenda are:

  • Implementation and compliance: the Meeting will review the first set of national reports on implementation, providing an opportunity for all concerned to see whether and how the goals of the Convention are applied in practice. The Meeting will also consider the findings of the Convention's Compliance Committee that three countries -- Turkmenistan, Ukraine and the host country Kazakhstan -- have failed to comply with certain provisions of the Convention. It will be the first test of the Convention's compliance mechanism, which is unique in that any member of the public having concerns about a Party’s compliance with the Convention may trigger a process of formal review by the Committee. The Meeting of the Parties will have the final say as to whether there is non-compliance and, if so, what measures should be taken.

  • The controversial issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs): the Parties will consider specific proposals to amend the Convention so as to extend the rights of the public to participate in decision-making on GMOs. However, just days before the meeting, positions remain polarized, and intensive negotiations are currently under way, with the involvement of environmental organizations and representatives of the biotechnology industry, in an attempt to close the divide.

  • A proposal to adopt guidelines on how Parties should apply the principles of the Aarhus Convention in other international environment-related forums: if adopted, the guidelines could indirectly lead to greater transparency and accountability in a wide range of international bodies and processes dealing with environmental issues in which the Parties to the Convention have a strong influence.

A high-level segment, to be held on 27 May, will consist of two panel discussions addressing “Successes, failures and lessons learned: key challenges in implementing the Convention” and “Global and regional developments on issues related to principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.” Ms Brigita Schmögnerová, UNECE Executive Secretary, is expected to read out a message to the Meeting from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, at the opening of the high-level segment.

For further information, please visit http://www.unece.org/env/pp/mop2.htm
or contact:

Environmental Information Management Officer
Aarhus Convention Secretariat
UNECE Environment and Human Settlements Division
Palais des Nations
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Mobile +41 79 477 08 42
E-mail: public.participation@unece.org


1 The Parties are: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the European Community.

2 The UNECE region encompasses the whole of Europe and five Central Asian countries, as well as Canada, Israel and the United States.

Ref: ECE/ENV/05/P05