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UNEP Executive Director Calls for Greater Public Access to Environmental Information

Aarhus/Nairobi, 26 June 1998 - Addressing a meeting of environmental information experts here in Aarhus earlier this week, Mr. Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), called on governments to implement practical measures to facilitate greater access by the public to environmental information.

"We must deliver timely, reliable, targeted and relevant information to policy-makers and the public so as to activate and stimulate the creative energies and support of the broad range of civil society", said Toepfer.

UNEP, in cooperation with the Danish Ministry of Environment and Energy, hosted a three day meeting entitled "Facilitating Public Access to Environmental Information in Europe and the CIS Region," from 23-25 June 1998, in Aarhus, Denmark.

Welcoming the new Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention), Toepfer emphasized the need for the "provision of an appropriate level of information ensuring that those empowered to make choices can do so on an informed basis".

"UNEP's INFOTERRA network has an important role to play in making the Aarhus Convention work," added Toepfer. "UNEP, in partnership with governments and other organisations such as the European Environment Agency (EEA) and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), can play a major role in this process," he said.

Calling on governments to establish a formal information service on environmental matters similar to the Irish Government's Environmental Information Service (ENFO), Toepfer stressed that such a service was essential to the effective implementation of the information pillar of the Aarhus Convention. He said that financial and technical assistance to the CEEC and NIS countries was absolutely necessary to build their capacity to establish a public environmental information service.

The UNEP Executive Director urged the participants to "formulate a clear strategy and develop a plan of action to make public access to environmental information a reality in all countries in the pan-European region".

Also participating in the meeting were: Mr. Domingo Jimenez-Beltran, Executive Director of the EEA; Mr. Sigfus Bjarnason, EEA Project Manager; Professor Willem Kakebeeke, Assistant Director General for International Environmental Cooperation, Netherlands, and Chairman of the Working Group that drafted the Convention; Mr. Jeremy Wates, Environmental Consultant, European Environment Bureau, Ireland, and Mr. Ralph Hallo from the Netherlands Society for Nature and Environment.

The meeting of 37 environmental information specialists from 30 European countries was convened by UNEP as a side-event to the 4th "Environment for Europe" ministerial conference. The participants from Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom, were the national focal point managers of UNEP's global environmental information exchange network, INFOTERRA.

Environmental information is one of the key areas of concentration of UNEP and is crucial to the task of strengthening the link between science, management and policy in order to promote global sustainable development and environmental conservation.

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Aarhus website: http://www.mem.dk/aarhus-conference/

For more information, please contact:

Beth Ingraham
Information Officer
UNEP Division of Environmental Information and Assessment
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: (254 2) 624299, Fax: (254 2) 624269,
Email: infotinf@unep.org

Robert Bisset
Media and Communications Officer
UNEP Information and Public Affairs
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: (254 2) 623084, Fax: (254 2) 623692,
Email: robert.bisset@unep.org

UNEP Web Site: http://www.unep.org

In Denmark contact:
Ms Dorte Bennedbaek, Information Counsellor
Ministry of the Environment and Energy
Hoejbro Plads 4, DK-1200 Copenhagen K
Phone +45 33927065, Phone +45 26153097, Fax +45 33322227,
E-mail: dbe@mem.dk

UNEP News Release 1998/66

Friday 26 Jun 1998
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