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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) were held in Palais des Nations, Geneva from 18 to 22 October 2021 in a hybrid format (combining on-site and remote participation).
The events provided a platform for Parties, signatories, international organizations, civil society and other stakeholders to discuss achievements and challenges in promoting environmental democracy in the context of digital transformation and sustainable development. The Aarhus Convention and its Protocol provide essential cross-sectoral tools on which Governments can rely to meaningfully engage the public and other stakeholders in decision-making, thereby offering solutions that can deliver truly sustainable governance. In this regard, these treaties are more relevant than ever for implementing a Decade of Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with Sustainable Development Goals. The Convention and its Protocol require that solid measures be taken to ensure that all persons, including the most vulnerable groups in society and rural communities, have access to reliable information and are able to participate in decisions that have an effect on their lives without any discrimination or harassment.
Spatial planning and large-scale infrastructure projects, for example, can have a substantial impact on the lives of thousands across countries and regions. Such projects create new opportunities for employment, travel and economic growth. At the same time, they may have an immense impact on ecosystems and human health and well-being. With the above in mind, the two sessions featured a Joint High-level Segment on 21 October 2021 where delegations focused on the role of the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol in furthering sustainable infrastructure and spatial planning.
Parties to both treaties and a wide range of stakeholders adopted the Geneva Declaration on Environmental Democracy for Sustainable, Inclusive and Resilient Development thereby reinforcing their commitment to promoting the transparent and participatory infrastructure and spatial planning, which will help to uphold the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being and achieve Sustainable Development Goals.