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UNECE offers solutions for furthering human rights and transparency on hazardous substances and wastes. What do we know about our exposure to hazardous substances by using cosmetics, food, toys, furniture, electronics, building materials and other everyday items? Do we know what hazardous substances, and how much, are being released into the environment from industrial or agricultural sites close to our homes and workplaces or our children’s schools? And do we have any idea about the hazardous substances that we, ourselves, are releasing into the environment from our day-to-day activities?
The number of hazardous substances being produced, stored, used, released or disposed of is growing significantly — as is the concern about how well-known their effects are on human health and the environment and how effectively this information is being communicated and made accessible to the public.
These subjects were in the spotlight recently as the United Nations Human Rights Council heard the first full report from the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes on 16 September. His report highlighted the key challenges for exercising these rights and potential solutions to address them. UNECE cooperated closely with the Special Rapporteur on the preparation of the report.
The focus on improving access to information on hazardous substances and wastes is particularly timely in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted at the United Nations Summit in New York on 25 September. Goals 12 and 16 aim to reduce significantly the release of hazardous substances to air, water and soil and to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment. The Goals also foresee widening the accessibility of information on such releases.
The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, known as the Aarhus Convention, and its Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers offer solutions for strengthening human rights and transparency on hazardous substances and wastes thereby helping to achieve these SDGs. They provide solid frameworks for guaranteeing public rights to environmental information on polluting substances and wastes and imposing obligations on public authorities to collect, update, provide upon request and disseminate such information, including through an online database. Furthermore, both instruments offer global, multi-stakeholder platforms to exchange experience in this area, including the key topics addressed by the Special Rapporteur.
The Special Rapporteur’s full report (A/HRC/30/40) is available from http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/ToxicWastes/Pages/Righttoinformation.aspx. English
EVENT: Training for Environmental Journalists in South Caucasus: call for participation - Deadline 10 October. The South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation is inviting environmental journalists to participate into the four day training session. The main goal of the training is to increase the knowledge and capacity of Georgian journalists to report effectively on energy and environmental issues.
We will bring together approximately 12 journalists and give them opportunity to engage in discussions with leading energy and environmental experts as well as with seasoned environmental journalists covering key environmental issues. The main focus areas include deeper understanding of key environmental challenges and issues of sustainable energy systems and climate change mitigation and adaptation. In addition to that, the participants will have opportunity to take investigative field trips at projects sites, access the real material and with assistance of training facilitator and experts outline the real story ideas. Together with the local environmental experts, the training will be led by Mr. Dirk Asendorpf, principle trainer from Deutsche Welle. Participants will have opportunity to engage into the discussion with environmental editor of Guardian.
The mandatory condition of participation is to provide at least one media product within 3 weeks period after the training. The participants are free to choose their own thematic focus in the fields of energy and environmental policy, but we highly encourage reporting on sustainable energy systems and climate change issues.
CONSULTATION in UK: Costs protection in environmental claims (17 September - 10 December 2015). The consultation sets out proposals for how to improve the environmental cost protection rules.
The consultation is aimed at those who may be involved in or affected by environmental legal challenges in England and Wales falling within the scope of the amendments made by the Public Participation Directive (2003/35/EC) (the relevant amendments have now been incorporated into recast versions of the Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU) and the EIA Directive (2011/92/EU)) or within the scope of the Aarhus Convention.
States and businesses must do more to realize the right to information about hazardous substances – UN expert at the UN Human Rights Council:. GENEVA (17 September 2015) – “People have a right to know whether they are being exposed to hazardous substances or may be harmed by them,” United Nations human rights expert, Baskut Tuncak, said today, while calling on States and business enterprises to do more to realize the right to information about hazardous substances and wastes.
“Unfortunately, often, individuals do not realize that hazardous substances are found in the course of their daily lives,” the UN Special Rapporteur on hazardous substance and waste said during the presentation of his latest report on right to information in the context of hazardous substances and wastes at the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council.*
Hazardous substances from human activity can be found in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the products we buy, and the places we live, play and work. A myriad of adverse effects, including cancer and other non-communicable diseases, are linked to the exposure to hazardous substances.
“Securing adequate information about hazardous substances remains an incessant global problem,” Mr. Tuncak noted. “Today, information is neither available nor accessible about the safety of tens of thousands of chemicals on the market, the potential sources of exposure to substances with known and unknown hazards, the amount of human exposure to hazardous substances, and the impacts of exposure to a large number of hazardous substances starting from conception.”
During his presentation, the independent expert explained that the right to information requires that facts be both available and accessible about hazardous substances. “For instance, information should be accessible at the time of purchase and when using a product containing hazardous substances,” he said.
“Furthermore, information must work to prevent harm, to enable democratic decision-making and to ensure accountability, access to justice and an effective remedy to those affected in a manner consistent with the principle of non-discrimination”, he stressed. In his report, the expert explained that information should be collected, assessed and imparted in a manner consistent with the principle of non-discrimination, illustrating disproportionate impacts on children, workers, indigenous peoples and other particularly at-risk groups.
To ensure that individuals can effectively understand and exercise their right to information about hazardous substances and wastes, Mr. Tuncak highlighted that “States must generate, collect, assess and update information on hazardous substances and wastes, and to disseminate information to those who may be adversely affected.”
“Businesses have a responsibility to conduct human rights due diligence which includes assessments of actual and potential impacts, and communicating information about potential risks and mitigation measures related to hazardous substance,” he added.
(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full report (A/HRC/30/40): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/ToxicWastes/Pages/Righttoinformation.aspx
Mr. Baskut Tuncak (Turkey) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/ToxicWastes/Pages/SRToxicWastesIndex.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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CONSULTATION: Effectiveness of EU pollutant release register under review. A public consultation is underway in the EU, and will run until 5 October, on the evaluation of Regulation 166/2006/EC which established a European pollutant release and transfer register (E-PRTR regulation). The purpose is to assess the performance of this register and to identify what is working well and what is not and why. Citizens, public authorities and organisations are invited by the European Commission to submit their comments on implementation of this regulation, which requires some 28,000 industrial facilities annually to make a statement to their national authorities on the release of certain pollutants and waste transfers. This information is then included in the European PRTR, an internet site easily accessible to the public, in line with the Protocol to the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. Anyone who wishes to contribute to the consultation may complete a questionnaire which seeks responses on the scope of the European PRTR, providing data to the register, checking and forwarding data, understanding the register website and the usefulness of the register. The findings of the consultation will inform the evaluation currently underway of the regulation to assess whether it is sufficient to achieve the objectives set, its effectiveness and the relevance of the register. English, 2015.
Comparison of metadata conventions for describing open data in Austria, Germany and Switzerland . This document contains a comparison of the metadata conventions for describing open data in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. The text deals with the status quo of open data in the respective countries, the organizational structure of the relevant government bodies, the structure and the semantic comparison of procedures. Legal provisions for publication of open data and the internal organisation of the publishing process are not subject of this document.
EVENT: Kyrgyzstan: 9th International Documentary Film Festival on Human Rights devoted to the anniversary of the Aarhus Convention, December 2015. 26/08/2015 Source: Central Asia News The Human Rights Movement "Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan" announced the results of the selection round of the 9th International Documentary Film Festival on Human Rights that will be held on December 10-14 in Bishkek. This year the Festival will be devoted to the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Accords and the three principles of Aarhus Convention. Kyrgyzstan joined the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in 2001. 40 foreign and 6 national documentaries were submitted to the Festival under the theme of women's and children's rights. The working group worked the documentaries from July 28 through August 7 and approved 20 foreign films from 40 submitted, and 4 national films from 6 submissions. Russian, 2015.
Promoting the Principles of the Aarhus Convention in International Forums: The Case of the UN Climate Change Regime. The 1998 Aarhus Convention constitutes a landmark international agreement to promote public participation, not only domestically, but also at the international level. In 2005, its parties adopted specific guidelines on the promotion of its principles in international forums and established institutional arrangements to promote the implementation of this instrument. This article provides an assessment of the work undertaken under the Aarhus Convention in the past 10 years in this respect, discussing the roles played by three main categories of actors: civil society organizations, national governments and international bureaucracies. The review of the promotion of the Aarhus principles in the international climate regime supports this analysis. This case study highlights that stakeholders and the secretariats established under the Aarhus Convention and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have played primarily a cognitive role as they worked to increase awareness of the parties on participation issues in the climate regime. To implement the Aarhus Convention in the context of the climate negotiations, the parties tend to favour domestic solutions (such as the inclusion of civil society representatives in governmental delegations) rather than reflect the Aarhus principles in their negotiating positions. English
Law and Practice on Public Participation in Environmental Matters: The Nigerian Example in Transnational Comparative Perspective. Public participation has become a recurring theme and a topical issue in the field of international environmental law, with many multilateral environmental instruments calling on states to guarantee effectively the concept in their laws and practices.
This book focuses on public participation in environmental governance, in terms of public access to environmental information and public participation in environmental decision-making processes. Drawing on the body of international best practice principles in environmental law and taking a comparative stance, Uzuazo Etemire takes Nigeria as a key case, evaluating its procedural laws and practices in relation to public access to information and participation in decision-making in environmental matters. In working to clarify and deepen understanding of the current status of environmental public participation rights in Nigeria, the book addresses key issues in environmental governance for developing and transitional countries and the potential for public participation to improve the state of the environment and public wellbeing.
Demonstrating the extensive transnational value of the provisions of the Aarhus Convention and its relevance even to non-Party states, Uzuazo Etemire uniquely utilises the regime in a non-UNECE context. Showing that its provisions largely indicate international best practice with respect to the subject-matter it deals with, the book employs the Convention, its implementation guidelines and decisions from the convention's Compliance Committee, amongst others, as a guide for assessing the adequacy of, and improving similar domestic regimes of an African and non-UNECE country.
Public perceptions of environmental risk: the role of journalists. Science not communicated is said to be science not done, but journalists’ portrayal of scientific findings can sometimes have a negative impact on public perceptions of science and even create false controversy. This study examined how presenting opposing scientific viewpoints affects public perceptions of environmental risk using climate change as the best illustration. English
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