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Governments and civil society look to enhance public engagement and protection for environmental defenders at Geneva meetings 

Aarhus & Protocol on PRTRs MoP

A 5-day event in Geneva will provide a platform for some 400 representatives of Governments, international organizations, civil society and other stakeholders to meet in a hybrid format and discuss achievements and challenges in the promotion of transparency, public participation in decision-making and access to justice regarding a wide range of topics related to the environment. They will look, among other things, to enhance public engagement and protection for environmental defenders. 

Organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the seventh session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) and the fourth session of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (Protocol on PRTRs) will be held in Geneva during the week of 18–22 October 2021. 

On 21 October, a joint High-level Segment of the two bodies is expected to lead to the adoption of the Geneva Declaration, which will reinforce the commitment of Governments to promoting access to information and inclusive public participation practices for sustainable large-scale infrastructure and spatial planning. 

The Meetings of the Parties are expected to adopt a number of important decisions that will lay out key priority areas for the next four years. One such decision is on the establishment of a new rapid response mechanism for the protection of environmental defenders, which comes in response to alarming reports of environmental defenders facing harassment, threats and violence for their work. This will further countries’ commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Sustainable Development Goal 16 aimed at promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. 

Furthermore, Guinea-Bissau is expected to make history as the first-ever country from outside of the UNECE region to accede to the Aarhus Convention. 

The Aarhus Convention, which entered into force 20 years ago, as well as its Protocol on PRTRs, continue to act as key global leaders linking environmental and human rights to ensure a safe and healthy planet for future generations. Their role in ensuring environmental democracy in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic economic recovery measures is more important than ever. In this context, a smoother transition to digitalization is needed, and the delegations are expected to make more ambitious commitments to the effective use of electronic information tools in engaging the public. 

For more information on organization of the events and documents, please visit the UNECE website: https://unece.org/environmental-policy/events/MoP7-MoPP4-JHLS

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