More than 400 participants from 58 countries gathered in Budva, Montenegro, this week to attend the sixth 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 third session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (Protocol on PRTRs), which are being held from 11-15 September 2017.
Participants discussed the future priorities for both treaties and addressed important challenges regarding access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters. The sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention this week saw a strong stand against the EU's efforts to prevent the Meeting of the Parties adopting a decision endorsing findings that the EU was in non-compliance with the Convention for its failure to allow members of the public to have access to justice to challenge acts and omissions by EU institutions that contravene EU law relating to the environment. Faced with a situation that could have seriously jeopardised the authority of the Meeting of the Parties and the integrity of the Convention’s compliance mechanism, the strong resistance by several Parties together with environmental NGOs and other stakeholders ultimately saw the United Nation's spirit of consensus prevail and the discussion on the decision on compliance by the European Union has been postponed until the next ordinary session of the Meeting of the Parties. A number of delegations expressed deep regret to the position taken by the EU.
At a Joint High-level Segment of the two treaties held on 14 September 2017, Parties adopted the Budva Declaration on Environmental Democracy for Our Sustainable Future. The Declaration emphasizes the role of access to information, transparency, public participation and justice in environmental matters as key to achieving the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
During her statement at the Joint High-Level Segment, UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova highlighted the global relevance of the Convention and its Protocol. She stressed that “democracy, good governance and the rule of law are at the heart of sustainable development. They are also prerequisites for addressing cross-cutting global challenges, such as climate change, environmental impacts on health, exposure to chemicals and availability of clean water”, underscoring the role of the Convention and its Protocol in promoting the active involvement of a wide range of stakeholders from all sectors alongside governments in environmental decision-making. “In doing so, they support member States’ progress towards global commitments, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction”, she said.
H.E. Mr. Pavle Radulovic, Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro underlined that “’when it comes to Aarhus Convention, we are not talking only about projects it is also a matter of logic, politics, spatial planning and sustainable development. The right to healthy environment is a fundamental human right, which is also included as well in the Constitution of Montenegro”.
The Budva Declaration recognizes the leadership of countries in putting the principles of environmental democracy into action, and renews the commitment of Governments, civil society, industry, the private sector, academia and other stakeholders to advancing the core values of the Convention and its Protocol.
Looking ahead, the Declaration stresses the ongoing need for coordinated and coherent efforts of all stakeholders to advancing “fully transparent, accountable and participatory decision-making processes”, together with strengthened democratic involvement and access to justice, in achieving the SDGs, particularly SDG 16 on access to justice for all and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.
Recognizing the achievements under the Aarhus Convention since its adoption almost twenty years ago, the Declaration also welcomes the growing interest in the Aarhus model and its principles beyond the UNECE region, highlighting its global applicability. The Declaration invites all countries to accede to the Convention and its Protocol or to apply their provisions, and reaffirms the commitment of all participants of the Budva sessions to cooperation and sharing experience.
The Declaration can also provide valuable input to other forums on environmental matters or SDGs, including the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the ECE region and the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
Furthermore, the adoption of the Declaration was welcomed by all Parties and NGOs as a vitally important document for the protection of environmental defenders. This was also echoed by the statement delivered to the meeting on behalf of the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment Mr. John Knox who underlined that “the adoption of Budva Declaration will help to provide better protection to environmental human rights defenders and to those who are implementing the core pillars of the Aarhus Convention on the ground”.
Participants included delegates from Convention and Protocol Parties, as well as from Guinea-Bissau and Namibia and representatives of United Nations agencies, international and regional organizations, international financial institutions, Aarhus Centres, business, industry and academia. The sessions were also attended by representatives of more than 30 NGOs from the UNECE region and from other parts of the world including China, Libya, Nigeria and the United States of America.
For further information, please visit: http://www.unece.org/env/pp/welcome.html
Ella Behlyarova, Secretary
Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters
Tel: + 41 (0)22 917 2376
E-mail: [email protected]
Note to editors
The Aarhus Convention was adopted in Aarhus, Denmark, in June 1998 and signed by the European Community and 38 countries from all subregions of UNECE. It entered into force in October 2001.
The Parties to the Convention are: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Protocol on PRTRs was adopted on 21 May 2003 in Kyiv and entered into force on 8 October 2009. The Parties to the Protocol are: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.