Guinea-Bissau has acceded to the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention), bringing the total number of Parties to 47.
By promoting public engagement in environmental decision-making, the Convention will help Guinea-Bissau to uphold the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as universally recognized by the Human Rights Council and United Nations General Assembly. It will also help the country to fulfill many other international commitments related to the environment.
Minister of Environment and Biodiversity of Guinea-Bissau, Viriato Luís Soares Cassamá, stated: “With this accession, Guinea-Bissau hopes to take advantage of the instruments of the Convention to fight climate change, promote its biodiversity as well as the protection, conservation, and safeguarding of the environment, allowing public participation in decision-making as well as access to justice when their rights to the environment are violated. Furthermore, Guinea-Bissau aims with this accession to be the flagship of the "Aarhus Convention trilogy" and to promote it in West Africa.”
UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova welcomed this important step: “I congratulate Guinea-Bissau, the first country outside the pan-European region to accede to the Aarhus Convention. This opens new opportunities to enhance environmental democracy in the country and to share experience with other countries in Africa and worldwide. Transparency, effective and inclusive public participation and access to justice are fundamental cross-cutting pillars for the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and are vital for climate action and biodiversity protection. I encourage countries in all regions to join the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol on PRTRs.”
Guinea-Bissau, home to some 2 million people, is rich in natural resources and in coastal, marine and terrestrial biodiversity. At the same time, it is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, which causes increased salinization and flooding in coastal regions, impacting agriculture and resulting in shortages of drinking water, destroying infrastructure and ecosystems, and fostering the proliferation of diseases. A major challenge linked to the use of its natural resources is that most deposits of building materials are located in protected areas which also serve as corridors of major strategic projects, such as mining of bauxite in Boé, railway links, trans-Sahelian roads, and the commercial port of Buba.
Ensuring effective and inclusive public participation in decision-making in such critical circumstances is therefore of significant importance. The Aarhus Convention plays a crucial role in this regard as it provides the State with a solid framework to strengthen public trust and engagement in environmental decision making. In addition, the Convention’s Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (Protocol on PRTRs) can assist the government in fact-based decision-making and facilitate public access to information on sources of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
Guinea-Bissau acceded to the Aarhus Convention on 4 April 2023.
In 2021, Guinea-Bissau acceded to the UN Water Convention, serviced by UNECE.
For further information on the Aarhus Convention, please visit: https://unece.org/environmental-policy-1/public-participation
Note to editors:
The Aarhus Convention was adopted in Aarhus, Denmark, in June 1998. It entered into force in October 2001. The amendment on public participation in decisions on the deliberate release into the environment and placing on the market of genetically modified organisms was adopted by the Meeting of the Parties at its second session in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in May 2005. All agreements enter into force for a State on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the State’s instrument of ratification, at which point it becomes a Party. Decision VII/10 on accession by Guinea-Bissau to the Convention was adopted by the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention at its seventh session in October 2021.
The Parties to the Convention can be found following this link: https://unece.org/environment-policy/public-participation/aarhus-convention/status-ratification.
The Protocol on PRTRs was adopted in Kyiv, in May 2003. The Protocol entered into force on 8 October 2009. The Parties to the Protocol can be found following this link: https://unece.org/environment-policy/public-participation/aarhus-convention/status-ratification.
The Aarhus Convention and its Protocol on PRTRs are open for accession by all UN member States.
Photo credit: Mr. Mário João de Oliveira, Ministry of Environment and Biodiversity of Guinea-Bissau.