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UNDA Project 1819AE: Montenegro - Ensuring public participation on environmental matters in times of COVID-19

Sunset Podgorica

The third EPR of Montenegro found that available environmental information and data were made accessible to the public, either through the websites of the Government or upon request, and that the Government worked on strengthening the involvement of non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders and creating a system for their effective participation in policymaking and decision-making on environmental matters.

Montenegro is a Party to the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) and pursues its implementation, including ensuring public participation in times of pandemic. The Compliance Committee under the Aarhus Convention issued a statement on the application of the Aarhus Convention during the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recovery phase, making it clear that, even in such a crisis, the binding rights set out in the Convention cannot be reduced or curtailed. Rather, if the established practices for ensuring access to information, public participation in decision-making or access to justice in environmental matters cannot be used, any alternative means must fulfil the requirements of the Convention.

Recognizing that human rights related to environment have to be protected during the crisis, and that new mechanisms are needed to provide citizens with better access to information, participation and non-restriction of rights granted by the Convention, Montenegro identified the need to explore opportunities for better service to its citizens through environmental compliance assurance tools. As a result, UNECE assisted Montenegro in preparing a handbook on handling environmental complaints and public participation, with a view to ensuring an effective and efficient process of public participation in environmental decision-making. The handbook includes checklists to motivate national public authorities to review their complaints handling systems.