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15th Anniversary of entry into force of the Aarhus Convention


Aarhus_02_11This year is the anniversary of the15th Anniversary of entry into force of the Aarhus Convention. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters was adopted on 25 June 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus at the Fourth Ministerial Conference as part of the “Environment for Europe” process. It entered into force on 30 October 2001. Moreover, Armenia became the decisive 16th country whose ratification ensured the Convention enter into force.

The Aarhus Convention establishes a number of rights of the public (individuals and their associations) with regard to the environment. The Parties to the Convention are required to make the necessary provisions so that public authorities (at national, regional or local level) will contribute to these rights to become effective.

The Aarhus Convention gives citizens and civil society organizations the right to access information about pollution and environmental impacts from industrial plants and other activities. It also establishes the right to participate in decision-making that affects the environment and the right to pursue legal means if that right is not respected.

According to the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment the Aarhus Convention has become a “leading example” in implementing human rights obligations relating to the environment.
This Convention is therefore unique, and it is critically important for environmental policies and participation throughout the 46 countries that have joined. It helps to save lives from dangerous pollutants, unsafe facilities and environmental disasters. And it greatly helps policymakers to strengthen their dialogue with citizens, which in turn leads to better and more informed decisions.
Today the principles and practices from the Aarhus Convention are critical for implementing the new Sustainable Development Goals in areas such as climate change, water management and the protection of biodiversity, health, job creation and the eradication of poverty. And the Convention is right on target when it comes to Sustainable Development Goal 16 on transparency, accountability and good governance.

The Secretary to the Aarhus Convention, congratulating everyone on the occasion of the anniversary, drew attention to the latest blog of the UNECE Executive Secretary devoted to the Aarhus Convention, where he praised all that have been achieved over the past 15 years, and highlighted the challenges lied before him to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. The blog is available from http://www.unece.org/info/media/blog/previous-blogs/handbook-for-bush-sneakers.html/.

According to blogger Christian Friis Bach “The Aarhus Convention is a very fine convention. I hope many more countries will join and that citizens and civil society will continue to use it. If so, we no longer need a handbook for bush sneakers”.

Prepared by Anush Beybutyan