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Parties to the Aarhus Convention celebrate its tenth anniversary

Published:23 June 2011

Geneva

From 29 June to 1 July, 43 governments and the European Union will meet in Chisinau, Moldova, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the pioneering Aarhus Convention, the leading international instrument globally on environment and human rights.

At its fourth session, the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention will assess the Parties’ progress in implementing the Convention so far and adopt decisions on future work. Parties will also discuss the role of the Aarhus Convention in sustainable development, including the Convention’s role as an inspiration for delivering Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration beyond the UNECE region. It is hoped that these discussions will make a useful contribution in the lead-up to the Rio+20 conference to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, and in doing so, to complete the circle to bring Aarhus back to Rio, the city in which Principle 10 was born.

Some of the key issues to be discussed include:

  • The role of the Aarhus Convention in promoting sustainable development
    The session’s High-Level Segment will take place on the morning of Friday, 1 July 2011. Two high-level panels will be chaired by Mr Gheorghe Salaru, Minister of Environment, Republic of Moldova and opened by Mr. Mihai Ghimpu, former President a.i. of the Republic of Moldova, Parliamentary Deputy, the founder of the Alliance for European Integration of the Republic of Moldova. A message from United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon will be delivered by Mr. Ján Kubiš, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. The first high level panel will discuss “Advancing sustainable development in in the UNECE region: a success story or a missed opportunity for the Aarhus Convention?”. The second high level panel is “The Aarhus Convention as an inspiration for promoting Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration”. The session is expected to send a strong message to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), offering the region’s experience within the framework of the Aarhus Convention as an inspiration for delivery on Principle 10 beyond the UNECE region.
  • Compliance Committee
    A special feature of the Aarhus Convention is its compliance mechanism, which allows members of the public to bring their concerns regarding a Party’s compliance to the Convention’s Compliance Committee based in Geneva. The Aarhus Convention’s Compliance Committee is an important tool to promote the effective implementation of the Convention. Since its establishment, the Compliance Committee has received one submission by a Party concerning compliance by another Party and 59 communications from the public. To date the Committee has made findings of non-compliance and recommendations in respect of 18 cases, involving 12 different Parties. Thus far, all findings by the Committee have been endorsed by the Meeting of the Parties. Even before such endorsement, the vast majority of the individual Parties involved had accepted the Committee’s recommendations. Next week the Chair of the Compliance Committee will report to the Meeting on those compliance issues raised since the Parties’ third session (Riga, June 2008). The Meeting will review new findings on non-compliance regarding Armenia, Belarus, the Republic of Moldova, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom.
  • Accession to the Convention by States outside the UNECE region
    Although primarily a UNECE convention, the Aarhus Convention is open to accession by States from outside the UNECE region upon approval by the Meeting of the Parties. The Meeting is expected to adopt a decision to guide the process of accession by non-UNECE states.
  • Synergies with other international processes
    The Convention requires Parties to promote its principles in other international processes regarding the environment. To this end, the Convention is working with a number of other environmental conventions and international organizations involved in environmental matters to build synergies. Other international organizations expected to take part in the session include the Convention on Biological Diversity, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the OSCE, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the World Bank.
  • Chisinau Declaration
    On Friday afternoon, following the high-level session, the Meeting is expected to adopt the Chisinau Declaration, a political declaration focusing on the role of the Convention in promoting sustainable development, as a contribution to the Rio+20 process.

The agenda for the Meeting is available at: http://www.unece.org/env/pp/mop4/Documents/ece_mp_pp_2011_1_e.pdf

Practical information about the Meeting, including venue, is available at: http://www.aarhus.mediu.gov.md/

All documentation to be discussed and, where relevant, adopted by the Meeting is available at: http://www.unece.org/env/pp/mop4/mop4.doc.htm

Note to editors

The Aarhus Convention’s proper name is the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. The Convention was adopted in 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus (hence its name). It entered into force in 2001 and currently has 44 Parties from around the UNECE region, including 43 countries and the European Union.

The Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and their government. Its aims include not only environmental protection and sustainable development, but also government accountability, transparency and responsiveness. The Convention was described by former Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997-2006) as “the most ambitious venture in the area of environmental democracy so far undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations”. Although the Convention has now been in force for a decade, its beginnings goes back much further, to the time of the adoption of the Rio Declaration at the 1992 Earth Summit. The Convention enshrines Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration adopted by 172 governments at the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992).

Parties to the Convention include : Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Ref: ECE/ENV/11/P28


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