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Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee warning subject of discussion

The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (hereinafter the Committee) has examined the cases of Armenia since 2004 in terms of the implementation of the Aarhus Convention provisions. The Committee has made a number of decisions, giving specific instructions to Armenia in regard to the implementation of their obligations under the Convention and especially in fixing the provisions of the Convention into the national legislation.
The last three decisions of the Committee were accordingly made at the last meeting of the parties in 2008, 2011 and the last one in 2014. They can be found on the official website of the UN Europe’s Economic
Commission, in the subsection of Armenia’s Aarhus Convention obligations implementation III/6b decision
(http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/pp/mop3/ODS/ece_mp_pp_2008_2_add_10_e_Armenia.pdf), IV/9a decision (http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/pp/mop4/Documents/Excerpts/Decision_IV-9a_Compliance_by_Armenia_e.pdf) and V/9a decision (http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/pp/compliance/MoP5decisions/V.9a_Armenia/Decision_V9a.pdf).

Repeatedly stating Armenia’s unfair attitude towards the introduction and implementation of the Convention provisions the Compliance Committee has taken Armenia under the annual supervision, requiring annual progress reports in addition to the reports presented every three years, in order to learn what activities were carried out in that year to include the norms of the convention in the national legislation.Every time the Compliance Committee emphasizes that the most substantive articles of the Convention are not included in the national legislation; no reasonable deadlines are set in terms of documents regarding to the environmental programs for public discussions and observations, the threshold of public hearings is not clearly determined, public participation procedure is absent, responsibilities of different acting persons (state bodies, local authorities, developers) in the public participation procedures are not clearly defined, a judicial independent and impartial and alternative body, etc. is not established.

More than once the CSOs, the Armenian Aarhus centers, collecting civil society’s views and proposals, have raised this issue to the relevant authorities.
The Compliance Committee’s another reminder of the V/9a decision implementation caused debates and concern, as it included strict warnings.
Considering this fact, Armenian Aarhus Centre initiated a discussion with stakeholders.

Mrs. Ruzanna Ghazaryan, president of Dalma-Sona foundation, has again touched upon the most painful question the Committee 2004 decision on Dalma gardens that states the government’s decision inadequacy, where the Party was suggested to provide justice without any financial barriers for the protection of the people’s violated rights. “Is it possible now in our country to apply to justice without financial means, let alone that objective and impartial justice doesn’t exist until now?“, she noted.

Mrs. Heriqnaz Tigranyan, legal advisor of Transparency International Anti-corruption Center (TIACC), touched upon their wasted efforts on fixing the concept of access to justice in the NGO law. “When in 2014 after having worked on the NGO draft for months we achieved to include access to justice clear provisions in regard to historical, cultural and environmental issues, it seemed that we have reached to success, but the project went back from the president’s office. “Then that provision was removed and the government approved a draft law without fixing NGO’s rights. And if the NA accepts now, NGOs will be deprived of this right”.

The inferiority of the EIA law was also mentioned. It’s seemingly participatory; the NGOs and experts actively participated in the development of the project at its development phase, but at the end the NA passed a version, which was substantially different from the draft worked out by NGOs.

They also discussed issues related to the work of the interdepartmental commission on the Aarhus Convention. The participants expressed concern about the non-implementation of the recommendations of the Convention Compliance Committee and the failure to properly implement actions in violation of the joint statement, examining the reasons, including the Compliance Committee’s intent to suspend, in accordance with the applicable rules of international law concerning the suspension of the operation of a treaty, the special rights and privileges accorded to the Party concerned under the Convention.

The participants did not have a clear answer which body currently implements the translation of the Committee requested laws and decisions.

Unfortunately the Focal Point of the convention, as well as representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice could not take part in the meeting. Therefore, other questions also remained unanswered.

The participants came to the conclusion that meetings with such format did not lead to constructive progress, they stressed the need of one more meeting with the participation of all the responsible bodies. Following the discussions also in the online version, a request to organize such a meeting was addressed to the Convention focal point, Mrs. Aida Iskoyan.

The organizations that are concerned with this issue expect that till the end of the year they will get answers to all their questions and are willing to invest their professional capacity and resources to support the government to properly implement the provisions of the Convention.

Mari Chakryan
Armenian Aarhus Centers Press Officers
E-mail: aarhusnews@gmail.com

Translated by Marine Mazmanyan