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15 years with the Aarhus Centers

Within the framework of the events of the Meeting of Parties of the Aarhus Convention, the OSCE marked the 15th anniversary of the Aarhus Centers establishment.

Representatives of more than a dozen Aarhus Centers, the OSCE, the UN ECE, NGOs and other stakeholders discussed the path of the development of this unique network, which has contributed to the implementation of good environmental management, which was launched with the creation of Yerevan Aarhus Center.
“Due to 60 Aarhus Centers in 14 countries, the OSCE supports good environmental management at the local level,” marked H.E. Ambassador Vuk Zugic,

Co-ordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities, OSCE, considering them as “ideal platform for the implementation of the 2030 Steady Development Agenda” at the local level. He particularly highlighted the role of the Centers in the implementation of the 16th Goal of the SDGs, promoting the establishment of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, making justice accessible to all, creating effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Mr. Pavle Radulović, Minister for Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro, informed that Montenegro Aarhus Centers provide public information on the environment, raise public awareness and broaden public participation in environmental decision-making, closely collaborating with local authorities.
The activities of the Centers were also highlighted by Marco Keiner, the Director of the UNECE Environment Division, in particular, assessing their potential in favor of sustainable development as a platform for dialogue between the stakeholders.

The presentation of the history of the creation of the first Aarhus Center in 2002 in Yerevan was entrusted to Frank Evers, Deputy Director of the OSCE Center for Research, who then co-ordinated the economic and environmental programs of the OSCE Yerevan Office. He particularly mentioned the names of the authors of the idea of creation of the first center: Sona Ayvazyan, who is now the Deputy Director of Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center (TIAC) and Ruzanna Baghdasaryan, who then was engaged in the environmental programs of the OSCE Yerevan Office.

Initially, the focus of the Centers was to promote awareness on the pillars of the Aarhus Convention in side countries and to assist the Government in implementing the Convention, but over time, the functions of the centers have become more inclusive, including almost all the Sustainable Development Directions.

Ms. Haykanush Parsamyan, representing Armenia, stated that the Budva Declaration was a starting point for environmental democracy and a crucial step for the implementation of the Aarhus Convention by promoting equality, freedom, human rights and the rights of nature.

The coordinator of the Yerevan Aarhus Center, Silva Ayvazyan, who has worked in the center since the day of its creation, presented the entire process of the Aarhus Centers Network in Armenia. She pointed out that teamwork has contributed to the formation and effective work of the network, on the basis of which has been developed the Aarhus Centers Roadmap by the OSCE.

Mari Chakryan, responsible person of the www.aarhus.am website, spoke about environmental information accessibility and eco-journalism in Armenia, particularly focusing on the creation and targeted use of electronic platforms that make environmental information more accessible, in parallel with the development of the center, in support of active involvement of the public into the environmental decision-making. It was noted that due to the closure of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, the activities of the Centers have faced serious obstacles today.

Esra Buttanri, Senior Environmental Affairs Adviser of the OSCE expressed willingness to assist in the ongoing work, if possible.

“Public Awareness and Monitoring Center” NGO

Photos are taken from the Aarhus Center Novi Beograd Facebook page and the OSCE EEA poster

Translated by Anush Beybutyan