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Aarhus Convention Seeks Input Ahead of Chisinau Meeting

25 March 2011: The Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has invited comments on the draft declaration from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20).

The draft, known as the Chisinau Declaration, is intended as a concise declaration of a political nature focusing on the role of the Convention in promoting sustainable development, as a contribution to the Rio+20 process.

Comments from Parties, Signatories and other stakeholders will be considered before finalization of the draft declaration, which is expected to be adopted by the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention at its fourth session, taking place in Chisinau, Moldova, from 29 June-1 July 2011.

In the draft declaration, the Parties express the following views: environmental democracy is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development; they have potential and willingness to further the Convention's implementation in our region and advocate it globally; clear action is needed to mainstream the acceptance of wider societal responsibility of the business community, and the strengthening of civil society's engagement in societal decision-making and action; the economic value of the environment and environmental costs and benefits of today's actions must be fully reflected in all decisions at strategic and project levels; public participation in decision-making is not a self-standing objective but rather an instrument for achieving the sustainability and well-being of society; the preparations for Rio+20 and its deliberations should serve by example in applying Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration, with a wide range of stakeholders being given an opportunity to present their visions for a sustainable future; the environmental part of international policies remains arguably the weakest of the three pillars of sustainability, including because of the fragmented competencies of the multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs); governments should strive for sustainability and coherence and reflect the views of the public whom they represent, while respecting the universal principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities, in order for multilateral diplomacy to prove that it can actually deliver on today's challenges; and the Parties' work in implementing the Aarhus Convention is paving the way for a universal application of Principle 10.

Stakeholders are invited to submit comments on the draft Declaration via email to public.participation@unece.org by 29 March 2011.

The meeting also will include discussion on public participation in international forums and the procedure for accession to the Convention by States from outside the UNECE region. A high-level segment will examine the role of the Aarhus Convention in promoting sustainable development. [UNEP Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch] [Aarhus Convention (1998)] [Draft Chisinau Declaration]