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UNEP'S INFOTERRA Holds meeting: "Facilitating public access to environmental information in the CIS region and the Baltic republics"

Moscow/Nairobi, May 1998 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in cooperation with the International Centre for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI), hosted a three-day meeting entitled "Facilitating Public Access to Environmental Information in the CIS Region and the Baltic Republics", from 12 to 14 May in Moscow. 

Held at ICSTI headquarters and attended by fourteen INFOTERRA national focal points representing Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, the primary focus of the meeting was the draft Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) and, in particular, the practical measures required to implement the 'information pillar' (Articles 1-5) of this draft convention in each country. This is the second UNEP-brokered meeting on this issue. The first meeting, held in Vienna last March, was attended by the INFOTERRA national focal points of the Central Europe region.

The Moscow meeting was co-chaired by Professor Nikolai Rybalsky, Director of the Russian Ecological Federal Information Agency (REFIA) and Dr. Peter Cokyrtsa, Chief of the Ecological Monitoring Center of the Republic of Moldova's National Institute of Ecology. Dr. Cokyrtsa was the representative of the Republic of Moldova on the working group that drafted the convention and he is also the Russian-speaking representative on the INFOTERRA Advisory Committee.

Guest speaker Ms. Vera Mazurok, Public Relations Advisor to the Minister for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety of Ukraine, presented an overview of the draft convention and described the intense negotiation process, facilitated by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and involving Governments and non-governmental organizations as full participants, that eventually produced the draft convention which is now ready for adoption and signature at the 4th "Environment for Europe" ministerial conference at Aarhus, Denmark, 23-25 June 1998. Ms. Mazurok was the representative of Ukraine on the working group that drafted the convention.

After a wide-ranging and in-depth discussion on the 'information pillar' of the draft convention, particularly its relevance to the CIS region, the participants reached consensus on their national responses to the provisions stipulated in the "information pillar". This consensus response (appended below) was articulated as the "Moscow Statement" on the draft Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters by UNEP/INFOTERRA National Focal Points of the CIS Region and the Baltic Republics.

In a joint statement, chairs Rybalsky and Cokyrtsa commented: "The meeting was an excellent opportunity for Russian-speaking INFOTERRA national focal points to translate the theoretical provisions of the convention's 'information pillar' into practical actions aimed at opening up greater access by the public to environmental information and raising the environmental consciousness of the public". Dr. Cokyrtsa further commented: "INFOTERRA national focal points, by virtue of their location and function, have a key role to play and must work hard so as to make this important convention work".

Welcoming the "Moscow Statement", UNEP's Executive Director, Klaus Tpfer, reiterated the importance of governments in the region opening up greater public access to environmental information. "Unless people have access to information, they cannot participate effectively in decision-making processes that affect our environment", noted Mr. Tpfer. "UNEP's global environmental information exchange network, INFOTERRA facilitates access to environmental information and this mechanism needs to be exploited more at the national level".

For more information, please contact:

Beth Ingraham,
Information Officer,
INFOTERRA,
The Global Environmental Information Exchange Network,
Division of Environmental Information and Assessment,
United Nations Environment Programme,
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, KENYA,
Tel: 254
2) 624299 or 623275
Fax: (254 2) 624269,
E-mail: infotinf@unep.org,
Web: www.unep.org/eis/infoterra


UNEP Information Note 1998/9

Translated from Russian

STATEMENT OF THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE MEETING ON THE DRAFT CONVENTION ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION, PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN DECISION-MAKING AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS

Moscow, Russian Federation
14 May 1998

The representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/ INFOTERRA national focal points in the Commonwealth of Independent States region and Baltic States (comprising the Republic of Armenia, the Azerbaijani Republic, the Republic of Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, the Republic of Uzbekistan), the INFOTERRA Regional Service Centre (International Centre for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI)) and the INFOTERRA secretariat,

Gathered at the meeting held in Moscow from 12 to 14 May 1998,

Welcoming the initiative taken by the Third Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" to adopt the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters,

Recognizing the importance of the provisions contained in the draft Convention and having confirmed that the INFOTERRA national focal points are the institutions responsible for carrying out at the national level the functions described in articles 4 and 5 of the draft Convention,

Expressing their intention to process requests for information in a manner convenient for the users, in accordance with article 4 of the draft Convention,

Expressing their interest in being points of contact for the implementation of the "information pillar" of the Convention,

Noting the difficulties impeding the successful participation of the national focal points in exchanges of information, namely, a weak technical resource base and insufficient financial resources,

Recommend:

 

  1. That the UNEP/INFOTERRA secretariat prepare and disseminate to the INFOTERRA national focal points proposals concerning modalities for the implementation of the Convention;
  2. That the UNEP/INFOTERRA secretariat and the Regional Service Centre initiate international technical cooperation projects with a view to the strengthening of the technical resource base of the national focal points, the training of specialists and the translation and dissemination of information materials in the national languages;
  3. That the INFOTERRA national focal points develop cooperation with non-governmental organizations and the public;
  4. That the INFOTERRA National Focal Points participate in the development of strategies, plans and a programme of action in their countries to promote acceptance of the provisions of the Convention and to develop a legislative framework and an organizational structure in the field of environmental protection;
  5. That the INFOTERRA national focal points take part in the upgrading and modernization of the INFOTERRA national focal points information network and the national departments dealing with environmental protection issues;
  6. That the INFOTERRA national focal points expand their participation in the development of national information networks in their countries, thus enhancing the role of the "environmental information" pillar;
  7. That annual meetings of participating countries be held in the framework of the implementation of the Convention, with the support and assistance of the UNEP/ INFOTERRA secretariat and the Regional Service Centre, for the purpose of discussing issues relating to regional cooperation in the information field.
Tuesday 26 May 1998
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