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United nations calls for meeting to discuss worsening environmental problems

Indeed, this major event — that we celebrate today — marks the outcome of significant legislative efforts on three important legal rights, which vividly express the concern to protect the environment for improved quality of life and for better health in full compliance with Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, adopted at the Conference on Environment and Development in 1992.

On this occasion, the EU would like to express its appreciation for the work done by the different Task Forces and Working Groups established in the framework of the Convention. The work accomplished so far by the various working groups allowed to make considerable progress by crystallizing various essential points related to the Convention, either through united nations calls for meeting to discuss worsening environmental problems exchange of experience in respect of electronic tools or access to justice, for example or by establishing ad hoc instruments designed to materialize some provisions of the Convention, such as compliance or the development of a pollutant register.

This day also marks a beginning, in that the vitality of the exercise of the 3 important legal rights of the Convention will undoubtedly influence political development within the UN-ECE region, beyond the environment sector. It is clear that these rights created by the Aarhus Convention will become a basic reference for all citizens of the pan-European area consisting of more than 50 countries. The EU strongly supports this Convention.

Several member states have recently announced to financially support the secretariat. It is also clear that the experience gathered in the Aarhus Convention will be of relevance for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. As a conclusion, the EU wishes to reiterate its determination to ratify the Aarhus Convention as soon as possible so as to offer the public a guarantee that they will be able to exercice their rights in respect of information, participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.

This international legislative document that stipulates public rights of access to information and justice in environmental matters is the inspiration for the further development of the democratic process in the countries with economies in transition. My congratulations and wishes of success to the Convention. We consider it to be great success for the environmental protection as well as for the development of the democratic processes.

Access to information, public participation in the decision-making and access to justice are an indispensable pre-requisite for the sustainable and successful solution of environmental problems not only on regional, national and local level but also on global level in a future perspective.

Thus we believe, in the near future, Bulgaria will be ready to stand among the countries which have ratified the Convention. We can all agree that the Aarhus Convention will change the environmental world. I am taking this opportunity to inform you that Croatia is now involved in a number of activities preceding the ratification of the Aarhus Convention. We are fully aware of the complexity of the task that is in front of us. We sincerely hope we shall be able to accomplish it by the end of next year.

May I congratulate those few but brave who had the vision and courage to launch and make this unique piece of international environmental legislation operative.

The Convention gives the right to civil society not only to be informed about environmental issues and have access to related information, but also to be involved and participate in decision-making procedures and to resort to Courts. The Republic of Cyprus, being very sensitive to human rights, pluralism, democracy and responsible governance, has signed the Aarhus Convention and has initiated the procedure of ratifying it. A law has also been passed for the freedom of access to environmental information.

About UNECE

The Aarhus Convention is an instrument of a new quality, strongly supporting democratic principles that are necessary for having our future more sustainable and more safe for next generations. I would like to appreciate the work done by you and your colleagues towards this great contribution that opens the door to a new model of partnership, a new style of communication among all parts of civic society in our countries. It is obvious, that proper functioning of such important instrument requires much time and effort made in the preparatory phase.

From this perspective, the Aarhus Convention has served in my Country as a great stimulation to have our environmental legislation even more democratic. I am proud to inform you that after having adopted the necessary changes in our legal framework for example a new Act on EIAwe started the ratification of the Aarhus Convention in the Parliament of the Czech Republic.

I do hope that the Czech Republic will become the Party of the Aarhus Convention by the end of this year. The significance of the Convention is global, and all countries united nations calls for meeting to discuss worsening environmental problems their citizens participating are winners. Indeed, the Convention represents a new approach in the machinery of environmental instruments.

The provisions on access to information, public participation and access to justice will further the legitimacy and transparency of environmental decision-making in the ECE region. Moreover, the Convention will serve as a model for other regions in the implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration.

Let me take this opportunity to convey my sincere congratulations for this remarkable achievement. With the entry into force of the Aarhus Convention, the UNECE set new standards for the transparency of administrative decisions and public participation in the field of environmental protection. Access to information was broadened and geared to the possibilities offered by modern information technology.

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The rights of the public to participate in licensing and planning decisions with relevance for the environment were strengthened. Citizens and associations now were guaranteed effective access to justice if they see a need to review administrative decisions on environmental matters.

This Convention ensures that citizens can make more effective use of their democratic rights of participation in the field of environmental protection.

The German Federal Government too has committed itself to the goals of the Aarhus Convention and will, in close co-ordination with the law-making activities of the European community, work for swift ratification of the Convention.

First of all, let me say thank you for the work of those Hungarian governmental and non-governmental organizations, which have taken part in the process of ratification of the Aarhus Convention.

We commemorated the revolution of 1956 just a week ago, on 23 October. The revolution fought for an independent and democratic Hungary. As the revolution was defeated, we were not able to implement our ideas. Only 10 years after the change of our political regime and on the threshold of the European Union we are capable of doing so. That is why the ratification of the Convention is of great importance. Our legislation and rules of law harmonize with the regulations of the Convention.

The ratification and implementation of it will serve not only the case of our environmental protection but our democracy as well. The Hungarian Parliament accepted the Convention with a majority vote on 29 May 2001. The proportional number of votes showed a very positive direction as 267 representatives of the Parliament voted for and only 2 voted against it. While preparing the ratification of the Convention we have taken all practical and personnel issues into account.

So far, we have succeeded in achieving the following results: We need to facilitate the practical implementation of the Convention, too: It is also important that the public should get to know their rights and opportunities through the Convention. We lay a big emphasis on the appropriate co-operation with non-governmental organizations, which contributes a lot to the implementation of the Convention. At the birth of the Convention, a lot of you may have agreed with us thinking that the economically, socially and politically most developed European countries would be the first ones to ratify it.

But it is not the case. Several countries from among the 16 ones to ratify it first are just about to rebuild their economic and political systems. I am convinced that the Aarhus Convention provides a lot of support for them from a political and economic point of view.

Last but not least I would like to thank you for organizing this event and let me wish you much success in implementing the Convention. We propose to ratify the Aarhus Convention in 2002. Congratulations to all those who have worked hard for this result!

Thanks to the entry into force of the Aarhus Convention, a fundamental step towards public awareness of environmental matters, transparency and involvement of the civil society has been achieved. Italy will continue to promote the Convention as a leading model for the implementation of principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, especially in the preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development that will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, September 2002.

Italy has been happy to serve as chair of the Meeting of the Signatories to the Convention and will be glad to continue supporting the Aarhus process in the most appropriate ways. As the second EU State to have ratified the Convention, we are engaged within the EU in a process of alignment of EC law with the provisions of the Convention in order to open the way to ratification of the Convention by the European Community. Italy strongly believes in the key role played by the public, both at individual and associated level, in the protection of the environment.

We appreciate the efforts made by Parties, Signatories and the Secretariat and would like to congratulate again all those who have worked hard for this result.

  • It also covers the false solutions that are being offered up by these corporate lobbies, such as shale gas, carbon capture and storage CCS and carbon markets;
  • We would like to stress the importance of the work carried out by all the Working Groups and Task Forces under the Convention;
  • Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences;
  • The Reshaping of the World:

We also hope that Countries having not signed or ratified the Convention will soon join us in such a commitment for environmental democracy. Sustainable development is impossible without ensuring personal freedom and the right to have access to reliable environmental information. Therefore, we can regard the signing and ratification of the Aarhus Convention by European and NIS countries, and its entry into force, as the acknowledgement of their adherence and commitment to the principles of democracy and publicity.

The Aarhus provisions are in accordance with the 10th principles of the Rio-de-Janeiro Declaration on Environment and Development, and implementation of the Aarhus Convention in European and NIS countries can serve the evidence of practical compliance with the Rio-de-Janeiro Declaration at the European level.

Capacity building for development of partnership relations among all the stakeholders public and NGOs, legislative and executive powers will guarantee democratic development of the society, realization of the rights to have access to reliable information, given by national and international laws, and, finally, sustainable human development. In this regard, the Aarhus Convention imposes considerable obligations on the countries that have ratified it.

Having ratified the Aarhus Convention in October 2000, Kazakhstan, on the one hand, has accrued the right to obtain international assistance to implement the Convention. At the same time, as a Party to the Convention, Kazakhstan should implement its obligations and involve all the concerned parties in the process, and we are aware of this. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the world community for the assistance and support it provides to Kazakhstan to facilitate the progress of democratic and sustainable development.

United nations calls for meeting to discuss worsening environmental problems am fully confident that the fruitful co-operation between Kazakhstan and the UNECE in addressing environmental problems will move further forward on a sustainable basis.

Furthermore, the Convention opens up new possibilities to all people who feel responsible for and want to take an active part in the protection of environment. The Netherlands presided over the negotiations on first the Sofia Guidelines and then the Convention. I am pleased with the result. It is an important contribution to the sustainability of the environment and environmental policy.

I hope that the Convention will serve as an inspiration, even beyond Europe and in other domains than the environment.

United Nations Secretary General

We are working hard for its ratification, and until it is ratified, we will conduct ourselves as if it were already in force. It represents a re-orientation of this field of law in the sense that it focuses on the role of individuals and NGOs, and the contribution they can make in our common effort to achieve sustainable development. Moreover, the Aarhus Convention confirms the important link that exists between protection of human rights and protection of the environment.

The adoption of the Convention has led to a number of new initiatives in Norway in order to further strengthen rights related to access to environmental information, participation in decision-making processes, and access to justice.

Norway intends to ratify the convention in the near future, as soon as necessary measures have been adopted. Moldova was the first country that has ratified this convention and we are proud that other countries followed our example. We would like to express our willing to collaborate in the future with all contracting Parties, observance and other interested organizations in order to implement and develop the goals and objectives of this convention.

This law is currently in a deep process of enforcement of its legal provisions. Romania recognizes the right of the people for a healthy environment and guarantees, in this sense, the freedom of access to information on environmental quality.

Environment is and should be furthermore a peaceful and secure instrument both for the states as for their people in a world in which pollution and deterioration of environmental factors become one of the most redoubtable human enemies. The Aarhus Convention marks a significant shift towards an environmentally responsible society. The Aarhus Convention is a tool for creating third generation citizenship rights, allowing access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, bringing these environmental issues to the level of other fundamental rights.

The open Europe has become reality; the idea has been implemented. The Slovak Republic wants to confirm its full participation in modern Europe and prepare its citizens as future active members of unified Europe.

The Slovak Republic is joining the efforts of the signatories by creating the conditions aimed at promotion of responsibility, transparency and openness towards the public. The government of the Slovak Republic will discuss very soon "The proposal for measures to accede to the Aarhus Convention", from which the particular tasks arise, thus leading to changes in legislation in order to meet the criteria of the Convention pillars leading to an open, inclusive and environmentally responsible society.

The Slovak Republic has an existing system for interaction of the government with the public, and implementation of the Aarhus Convention will strengthen this system.