The joint meeting on public participation in environmental decision making: focus on Water and Health Print
News Waterfall - News Waterfall #2
Tuesday, 03 July 2012 13:01

The joint meeting on public participation in environmental decision making: focus on Water and Health was organized under the auspices of the Task Force on Public Participation (PP) in Decision-making of the Aarhus Convention and the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on Water and Health in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Forests of Romania and WECF on 6-8 June 2012 in Geneva. About 40 participants: experts, representatives of the governmental structures and NGOs, business and researches from the European region took part in the Meeting.

On 6 June in opening session chaired by Ana Drapa, Member of the Bureau of the Protocol on Water and Health, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Romania and by Philip Kearney, Chair of the Aarhus Convention’s Task Force on Public Participation in Decision-making (PPDM)

Philip Kearney introduced the Aarhus Convention (AC) and the Convention’s draft recommendations on public participation in environmental decision-making were done by Philip Kearney. Today 44 states are Parties of the AC, which is a heart of the relations between public and governments. Nowadays a focus of AC implementation is on involvement public in government accountability. Environmental issues are best handled with public participation. 3 pillars AC: public access to information, PP in Decision- making process and access to justice in environmental matters. There are three Task Forces to AC for each pillars of the Convention dealing with innovative compliance tools. TF on PP is working on implementation of Working plan developed by the first Meeting of the Parties (MoP) to the Aarhus Convention. Global call for case studies on PP is opened: template on Web site: . TF PP now is preparing draft of PP : open discussion of the draft of these recommendations was on the meeting agenda on 7 and 8 June. Dead line for comments is 2 July 2012. Next 3 day workshop on nuclear is planned in Luxemburg in March 2013.

Ana Drapa introduced the Protocol on Water and Health. Now there are 25 Parties of the Protocol. There are 3 pillars of the Protocol: targets setting, surveillance, compliance. Among the main problems are: involvement public, access to information on water safety, education.

Anke Stock, WECF, presented the Guidelines on PP under the Protocol, which are in preparation stage and the basis of them was develop based on results of the workshop on PP in Protocol on Water and Health in June 2011 in Romania. The task is to develop a response system. Draft of Guidelines will be send in a time; including the structure, main challenges, cases, directions: needs of the parties is to cover decision making process: targets settings, implementation, reporting – regular review. There are several cross-cutting issues: gender, participant mapping.

Chantal Demilecamps, Secretariat to the Protocol, presented the issue on Complementing AC and Protocol. Protocol was influenced by AC; Protocol is open for civil society and includes general and practical provisions for PP, access to info. General provisions are related to water frameworks art 4.5, access to information and access to justice. Operational Articles of the Protocol are about targets setting, measures plan development, progress review; reporting exercise. Protocol has a Compliance committee, GL on communications from the public already developed.

Fiona Marshall , Secretariat of AC, presented the PP under AC according to it “Each party shall make the appropriate practical and other provisions”. Today the model of PP is developed as step-by-step model, including 7 steps: adequate notice; Reasonable time-frame, all relevant information provision, public entitled to comment – to submit in written form, hearings, ensure taking into due account of public comments; promptly informing about the decision. Among the tools of enforcement there are caution, sanctions to the country, which doesn’t work on compliance.

Session 1 “Key obstacles to ensure the public participation at all levels” included 4 presentations:

Nicolas Becuwe, TNS Opinion, Belgium about Eurobarometr –Survey on attitudes of Europeans towards water-related issues: a background review-flash made by phone calls in March 2012. 27 members states took part in this survey. About 25,500 people were interviewed. For 70% of interviewed the water quality is an issue, especially chemical pollution. The countries’ specifics problems related to water, water threats were found.

Sergey Vyhryst presented «Key challenges to effective PP», European ECO-Forum – Coalition of about 200 NGOs. A clear procedure is a basis of PP efficiency.

Sinead O’Brien and Harriet Emerson, SWAN, Ireland presented their experience on PP in the water management in Ireland. SWAN - NGOs coalition implemented step by step PP module in river basin management plans development. Main PP problems are poor culture of PP, lack of understanding among authorities, no evidence on PP in water sector, lack of effective expertise, framework, skills and expertise on PP.

Lidia Guluzada, TETA “Kharzri”,Azerbaijan presented ”Key obstacles to public participation in the two projects of water supply of Northern regions and Baku” as positive experience of public hearings on Environment Assessment of the project on water supply in Baku and regions and taking public comments into due consideration by the authorities in final decision.

Session 2 was about Specific issues related to public participation in the implementation of the Protocol on Water and Health, in particular in relation to the establishment of national coordination groups/committees, the setting of targets and dates, the development of integrated strategies, the progress assessment and preparation of reports.

Session included the Panel discussion on public participation in the setting of targets under the Protocol on Water and Health with participation of 3 panelists: Diana Celac, Ministry of Environment, Republic of Moldova; Tatiana Sinaeva, Eco-Tiras, Republic of Moldova and Anna Tsvietkova, MAMA-86, Ukraine. The questions discussed during the panel were about status of the Protocol implementation, PP in targets setting, main inputs, outcomes and lessons of PP in the Protocol implementation.

Biljana Filipovic, Ministry of Environment, Mining and Spatial Planning, Serbia reported about “Raising awareness of the Protocol on Water and Health”. Highlighted the active involvement of Youth into Children and Health Action Plan (CEHAP) and now in Protocol promotion, involvement of municipalities, mass media, active role of Min environment in work on Protocol Ratification, which is planned to be done in 2012.

In this session the issue on involving the public in the preparation of national reports was presented by providing the experience on reporting to the Aarhus convention in Armenia by Aida Iskoyan, Ministry of Nature Protection, Armenia and in context of the human rights Convention and lesson’s learned from the human rights protection mechanisms by Jean Benoit Charrin, Waterlex, Swithzerland.

This session included the Work in WGs on the PP issues to identify the challenges and develop the recommendations on the 4 issues: defining and identifying the public which should participate; notification of the public and organizing the access to all relevant information; gathering the public views; taking into account the public participation outcomes.

The reports of the Small WGs were done on 7th June before the 3 Session on Developing the capacity of civil society/NGOs, public authorities and service providers to enhance PP. In the agenda of the Session 3 there were 2 themes presented:

the theme1: Structural tools to facilitate effective PP there were presented:

Guidelines (GL) on access to information and PP for private companies undertaking public services by Liz Smith, EBRD : EBRD is planning to develop the municipal strategies on infrastructures development for the countries and the guidelines on public informing and PP for business in public services.

PP in multi-optional decision-making by Peter Emerson, the de Borda Institute, Ireland

PP in the definition of the Regional Health and Environment Plan in Provence Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA) region by Muriel Andrieu Semmel, PACA Regional Agency for Health, France

The South Caucasus Public Center of Excellency on Water and Health: a model for promotion PP in water and health by Grigol Abramia, International Center for Environmental Research;

the Theme 2: Practical techniques to facilitate effective PP:

Good practices for PP in Romania (PP in Danube RBMP and in Nitrate Directive implementation, Danube Days awareness raising campaigns, information and education of stakeholders) by Elvira Marchidan, National Administration “Apele Romania”,

The experience on PP in Belarus presented by representative of Aarhus center in Belarus (examples on Public information in case of river contamination, PP in Western Dvina river basin management plan.

Outreach to marginalized people: practical tools ( focus on rural communities in EECCA region, work with women, youth) by Anke Stock, WECF,

PP on Water and Health in Armenia: now and for the future presented by Emma Anakhasyan, AWHHE, Armenia

Experiences in enhancing PP in water and health related decision-making in Uzbekistan by Artur Vakhitov, ECO-Forum, Uzbekistan

The Session 4 was an open consultation on Aarhus Convention’s draft recommendations on PP in decision-making on environmental matters. The Draft of the document was presented by special expert Jerzy Jendroska and during 3 hours the participants commented and worked on clarification of the draft text.

The third day of the Meeting included the work in 2 parallel sessions:

Aarhus Convention on Assessing the Aarhus Convention’s provisions on PP in decisions having a significant impact on the environment, including, inter alia, product-related decision-making and in particular how these provisions might be further elaborated;

Water and Health Protocol: meeting of the Drafting group on GLs /manual for involving the public consultations and decision-making processes under the Protocol: discussion and agreement on the outline of the GLs/Manual, content, main massages and distribution of work

More information and presentations of the Meeting are available on: