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Chronicle of the 6th Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention

19.09.2017
On September 10-15, the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP 6) to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) and the 3rd Session of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers and meetings of high-ranking officials under them were held in Budva, Montenegro.
Welcoming all the participants to the MOP 6 Mr. Pavle Radulovic, Minister for Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro outlined the importance given by Montenegro to applying the sustainable development principles in decision-making and recognizing the human rights value of the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention.

In his welcoming remarks, the Director of the UNECE Environment Division, Mr. Marco Keiner, underscored the objectives of the Budva events, including reviewing implementation of the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs), defining future priorities and addressing the relevance of the two instruments to the Sustainable Development Goals. He also stressed the importance of adopting a Declaration covering this matter, along with several other emerging issues related to environmental democracy.

After the adoption of the agenda, the delegates moved on to considering the draft decisions on compliance by Parties with their obligations under the Convention. The draft decisions concerning compliance by Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan and Spain with their obligations under the Convention were approved without amendments.

Particularly, with regard to Armenia the Compliance Committee in its draft resolution, insisted on issues raised by Decision V9 / a.

Haykanush Parsamyan, Focal Point of the Aarhus Convention, Advisor to the Minister of Nature Protection noted that Armenia has followed the recommendations of the Compliance Committee and satisfied the requirement of the 2nd paragraph of Article 9 of the Convention, which was reflected in the new law on NGOs.

With regard to the issue Artur Grigoryan, the representative of “Ecological Right” environmental NGO, in his speech asked the Compliance Committee of the Convention to apply a warning as a sanction against the Armenian Government. The requirement to apply this measure was conditioned by the fact that on August 30, during the proceedings against the Amoulsar mine exploitation, the Administrative Court of Armenia made a decision to waive the right of plaintiff environmental NGOs to apply to court. “The Court’s decision is an absolute expression of absolute disregard for the international obligations of Armenia and the Compliance Committee of the convention,” he added.

The sixth session of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention continued in the next two days.
Regarding the status of ratifications, the Aarhus Convention Secretariat informed that there were no new ratifications since 2014, keeping the number of Parties to the Convention at 47. The number of ratifications of the Amendment on Public Participation in Decisions on the Deliberate Release into the Environment and Placing on the Market of GMOs (GMO Amendment) increased from 28 to 31 with ratifications by Georgia, France and Malta. This brought the number of ratifications required for its entry into force to just two Parties. Therefore, the Secretariat urged the parties to take measues to ratify this important document in the near future.

In an intervention, a European ECO Forum representative expressed regret over the fact that the Russian Federation had not yet acceded to the Convention. The representative of Guinea-Bissau, Mr. Mário Batista Camala, informed that his country was already applying all the principles of the Aarhus Convention and expressed hope that other African countries would also follow.

As for capacity-building, the Chair stressed the importance of partner organizations in assisting in the promotion and implementation of the Convention at local, national and subregional levels through capacity-building activities. Several organizations shared their views on outstanding needs for capacity-building and provided information on the activities undertaken. Finally, the Chair summarized the conclusions of the discussion, on which the MOP agreed.

Several thematic events were held within the framework of the programme, focusing on the Aarhus Convention Index, new rights and procedures for strengthening environmental democracy in France, public participation in international forums, access to justice, monitoring progress of the implementation at national levels, and empowering citizens to better tackle climate change and implement the Paris Agreement. Among those events, the OSCE presented the 15-year activities of the Aarhus Centers.

From Armenia the meeting was attended by Haykanush Parsamyan, focal point of the Aarhus Convention, Heghine Hakhverdyan, re-elected member of the Compliance Committee, expert Gohar Ghazinyan, Silva Ayvazyan, coordinator of Yerevan Aarhus Center, representatives of Dilijan, Vanadzor Aarhus Centers, «Public Awareness and Monitoring Center» and «Eco-right» NGOs.

Details of the meeting can be found by following the link:
http://aarhusmontenegro.me/news .

Mari Chakryan,
“Public Awareness and Monitoring Center” NGO
Translated by Anush Beybutyan