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The Challenges of the Aarhus Convention Implementation and the ACs Future Strategy have been discussed at the Armenian ACs Coordination Meeting
On December 20-21, at the initiative of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, in cooperation with the RA Ministry of Nature Protection, the Coordination Meeting of the Armenian Aarhus Centres was held in Dilijan.
Mr. Matthias Lichtenberger, Economic and Environmental Programme Officer at the OSCE Office in Yerevan welcoming the participants highlighted the activities of the Aarhus Centres (AC), as one of the key initiatives of the OSCE. The centers are uniquely combines the organization’s efforts towards the environmental protection and security, as well as aimed at strengthening democratic institutions.
The latter marked that the Aarhus Convention, its Protocols and and the work carried out towards making amendments in the coming years will remain as a priority for the OSCE. Mr. Likhtenbergn suggested to discuss which direction should be further developed focusing on the improvement of the environmental impact assessment and expertise (EIA) process, development of practical tools investment methodology and public hearing implementation monitoring. In this regard, he highlighted the successful cooperation with the MNP.Continuing the theme Mrs. Gohar Ghazinyan, Environmental Programmes Officer at the OSCE Office in Yerevan, noted that the changes at the EIA process are not end in itself but should be aimed at the protection of the environment, public decision-making process, especially ensuring the inclusion of the position of the affected communities. She especially highlighted the ACs continuing role in the public notification on the EIA projects.

A lively discussion aroused on the topic. In particular, the subject of discussion was the draft submitted by MNP on “making amendments in the RA Government’s Decision N1325, dated on November 19, 2014.

Ms. Natalya Manukyan, coordinator of Aparan Aarhus Center noted that should be mechanisms to impose punishment the offenders of the public hearings procedure.

A suggestion was made that if the public does not participate in public hearings and no offer was submitted on the project, the hearing will be deemed invalid, then the initiator will be keen to involve the general public.

Mrs. Mari Chakryan, president of the “Public Awareness and Monitoring Center” NGO, responsible of the www.aarhus.am wesite pointed out the Maastricht recommendations, which sets out in detail the procedures for public participation in decision-making, and highlighted those contribution to the national legislation.

During this time, we managed to contact with the national focal point to the Aarhus Convention Khachatur Khachatryan, who said that at the previous consultative meetings held with the representatives of the OSCE Office and the Aarhus Centers have already been decided to develop a new procedure for organizing and conducting public hearings fully based on Maastricht recommendations. To this end, he appealed to the OSCE Office, asking to support to translate the document.

Afterwards, in addition to the challenges of the Aarhus Convention implementation have been discussed various issues concerning the future strategy of the Aarhus Centers.

Mrs. Elmira Melikyan and Mrs. Gohar Harutyunyan, employees of the Information Analytical Centre of the RA MNP presented the results of the monitoring of the Armenian Aarhus Centers activity and made suggestions for improving their work. They also highlighted the need to establish an AC in Meghri.
The Aarhus Centers coordinator-experts presented the results and achievements of their activity in 2016.

For instance, the City Councils of Dilijan, Kapan, Aparan communities have discussed the proposals submitted at the requests of the Aarhus Centre and included some of them in community development programs; Alaverdi community has become the winner in the nomination of the citizen participation in the best practice program of the European Council, in which the role of the Aarhus Centre was very important in terms of service provision, improvement of public participation at the local level.
Details of the activities of this and other centers are available at the Expert’s Corner section (http://aarhus.am/?page_id=419&lang=en ) and the given center’s page.

At the end of the meeting participants watched the “Conscious Caucasus (Armenia)” video film produced by the WWF, devoted to the Armenian nature and culture, eco-tourism opportunities.

Mari Chaqryan
Translated by Anush Beybutyan