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Belarus pilots public hearings on green economy

How can public participation procedures in environmental decision-making be best designed to ensure that the public’s views are taken into consideration and improve the quality of the decisions taken? What public notification methods are the most effective nowadays? How can the human and financial resources available be used to maximize the effectiveness of public participation? These were some of the main topics discussed by some 50 representatives of State and local public authorities, non-governmental organizations, business operators, academia and other stakeholders in Minsk on 2 and 3 November 2016 against the backdrop of public hearings on new green economy national action plan held in the capital.

In 2016, Belarus adopted further changes to its legislative framework to bring it into line with the standards for effective public participation in environmental matters enshrined in the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention). These standards, and methods for achieving them, are further detailed in the Maastricht Recommendations on Promoting Effective Public Participation in Environmental Matters.  

To support the practical implementation of the new legislation, the workshop “Ensuring effective public participation in environmental decision-making in Belarus” was organized by UNECE and OSCE in the framework of the Environment and Security Initiative and in close cooperation with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus and its scientific and research centre “Bel SRC Ecology”.  

Workshop participants took stock of practices at the national and international level and discussed solutions to existing deficiencies in various public participation procedures. The participants had the possibility to learn from the practical example of public hearings, held in Minsk on 3 November, concerning the draft National Action Plan on the Implementation of the Principles of Green Economy in the National Economy of the Republic of Belarus until 2020. The public hearings were organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus. It is hoped that the outcomes of the workshop will guide future practical measures to address the greatest challenges to effective public participation, such as the need to streamline notification and information systems and to strengthen cooperation between different public authorities with regard to decision-making procedures in areas of joint competence.