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UNECE helps Belarus amend law on State Environmental Expertise in line with international standards

With help from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Belarus is currently assessing its legislation with a view to implementing the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment (Espoo Convention) and its Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (Protocol on SEA). Belarus is already a Party to the Espoo Convention, but has yet to join the Protocol.

On 29 April, a first round of discussions was held with all stakeholders — representatives from the relevant Ministries, local and sectorial authorities, as well as civil society organizations and the private sector — to review the practical aspects of the application of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) to plans and programmes and the role of SEA in environmental assessment systems. The discussions also helped to identify the challenges in transposing the requirements of the Espoo Convention and the Protocol on SEA into the national legislation.

SEA is the evaluation of the likely environmental, including health, effects of a plan or programme, including the determination of the scope of the necessary environmental report and its preparation, the carrying-out of public participation and consultations, and the taking into account of the recommendations of the report and the results of the public participation and consultations in the development of the plan or programme.

On 30 April, UNECE consultants and a small group of national experts and representatives of civil society met to prepare amendments to the Law on State Ecological Expertise, the legal instrument that currently guides the assessment of the environmental impacts of plans and programmes in Belarus. The adoption of the amendments will foster accession of the Republic of Belarus to the Protocol on SEA.

The UNECE secretariat to the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on SEA is assisting Belarus in developing amendments to the Law on State Ecological Expertise so that the national environmental assessment framework in Belarus:

  •  Ensures that environmental, including health, considerations are thoroughly taken into account in the development of plans and programmes;    
  • Establishes clear, transparent and effective procedures for strategic environmental assessment;
  • Provides for public participation in strategic environmental assessment.

The amendments will be further developed by the Ministry in cooperation with the UNECE Espoo Convention secretariat, practitioners, environmental experts, representatives of the Minsk municipality and urban planners, and is expected to be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers for final discussion before 1 August 2015.

The round table and the bilateral meeting on 29 and 30 April were organized by UNECE and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus within the programme Greening Economies in the Eastern Neighbourhood (EaP GREEN), which is implemented during 2013-2016 by UNECE, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization to assist the six European Union’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine — in their transition to a green economy. The programme is financed by the European Commission, the four implementing organizations and other donors.

More about the programme at:  http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=39211#/ 

For more information, please contact Tatjana Laguta, Department of State Ecological Expertise, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus email: tat.laguta@gmail.com.