6th meeting of the parties to the Aarhus Convention

As part of the NGO coalition under the European ECOForum, we participated in the 6th MOP of the Aarhus Convention that was hosted by Montenegro in Budva.

Anke Stock at the 6th MoP of the Aarhus Convention

The Aarhus Convention of UNECE is of particular interest to us as it safeguards access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. It is therefore at the basis of lobby advocacy work by civil society, and our work, also in other forums. The Convention protects democratic values and the rights of the public and is unique in linking environmental and human rights.

In general the meeting reflected a decreasing level of ambition of EU parties to defend core principles of the Aarhus Convention; some discussions about specific agenda points even revealed a fierce opposition of certain member states towards democratic rights, such as access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice (3 pillars of the AC).

The meeting’s first days were dominated by the European Union’s refusal to accept endorsement of the Aarhus Compliance Committee Decision C/32 that was adopted in March 2017. After lengthy negotiations the decision to endorse the decision was postponed to the next MOP. The Aarhus Compliance Committee was set up in order to review compliance of the parties with the convention, allow for public involvement and consider communications from members of the public. The Compliance Committee found that the EU was in non-compliance with the convention, as the number of possibilities to bring a case before the Court of Justice of the EU is very limited for NGOs and citizens.

Another discussion point was the election of the new members of the Compliance Committee. There was a strong interest from civil society groups to keep J. Jendroska and P. Cerny in the Committee as their experience and knowledge as well as their commitment towards the AC was highly valued over the years. Unfortunately, the negotiations within the contact group led to Mr. Cerny not being re-elected. The new members are Ms. Fruzsina Bögös (nominated by Hungary), Mr. Marc Clément (nominated by France), Mr. Peter Oliver (nominated by the European Union) and Mr. Dmytro Skrylinkov (nominated by Ukraine), as new members. Ms. Heghine Hakhverdyan (nominated by Armenia) and Mr. Jerzy Jendroska (nominated by Georgia) were reelected.

The future work programme (2018-2021) was adopted reflecting as well how member states are reducing its effort for the important Aarhus work. The inter-sessional period was prolonged from 3 to 4 years at the same time reducing the total budget from nearly 1.4 m Euros for the last inter-sessional period from 2014 to 2017 to 1.2 m Euros for the coming 4 years. Furthermore, the work programme foresees fewer meetings of the respective Task Forces (we follow the TF on Public Participation in Decision-Making), which will lead to less opportunities of member states and experts to exchange about the relevant issues and push further for implementation and development.

Our representative, Anke Stock, also participated in two panel discussions at side events organised by CIEL and Earthjustice: one on our experiences with participatory rights within the Agenda 2030 process referring to the obligations of the member states to the Aarhus Convention arising out of Article 3 (7) and the Almaty Guidelines. At the other event on good practices of public participation in effective climate policies Anke Stock presented the gender-sensitive NAMA developed in cooperation with local partners RCDA and the Greens in Georgia. This is an example of a participatory process leading to innovate climate solutions with a focus on gender-sensitive co-benefits.

Further reading:

  • English version of the ECO Forum Statement to the Sixth Meeting of the Parties
  • Russian version of the ECO Forum Statement to the Sixth Meeting of the Parties