UNECE Aarhus Convention Clearinghouse

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Aarhus Check. National planning laws are designed to comply with the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention – covering information, participation & access to justice. However, citizens throughout Europe are becoming more aware of the Aarhus principles and project promoters and public bodies need to be sure they can respond to any challenges. This simple tool helps you discover how well you may conform to the Aarhus Convention. It designed for those who plan or have recently undertaken public engagement on major infrastructure projects. English
Publisher: The Consultation Institute, 2015.

Engaging people in smart grids. Engaging people in smart grids Users are taking the center stage in future energy systems. Smart grids will only succeed if we take into account the desires, motivations and concerns of people. Developing smart grid products and services represents not only a technological challenge, but equally importantly a social challenge. People have to be engaged in an exciting journey, that allows them to discover the benefits of the smart grid at their own pace. This website offers about fifty guidelines and tools that are developed and tested in the EU research project S3C. It covers a wide range of topics. How to better understand the needs of target groups? How to set up attractive incentives or reward schemes? How can I effectively communicate with customers? Guidelines provide an overview of what you need to take into account: they show the directions of your journey without tracing each step into detail. Tools offer you detailed, actionable step-by-step account of how to engage people in your smart grid. English
Publisher: The S3C project - Smart Consumer, Smart Customer, Smart Citizen, 2015.

The Aarhus Convention is an important step towards improving environmental democracy. Rudolf Legat, Andreas Berthold and Johannes Mayer discuss the impact of the Aarhus Convention on improving environmental democracy through widening access to environmental information and use of electronic information tools as well as sharing Austrian experience in this regard. German
Publisher: ADV Austria, 2016.

Austria: Draft Freedom of Information law falls short of international standards. Access Info Europe and the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) analysis of the Austria’s draft freedom of information (FOI) law welcomes progress, but urges further reforms to better guarantee right to information. Draft law requires significant further development in order to meet international standards governing transparency and the right to information. The criticism concerns an overly restrictive definition of “information”, an expansive list of exceptions and lack of some safeguards, the lack of an independent oversight body, a lengthy time frame of eight weeks to respond to a request and some other issues. English | German
Publisher: International Press Institute, 2015.

Spain: Oviedo reuses Madrids citizens participation tool. The city of Oviedo, capital of Spain’s Principality of Asturias, in December 2015 released Oviedoparticipa.es. This citizen participation and open government platform is based on Madrid’s decide.madrid.es platform, which is available as open source software. English | Spanish
Publisher: European Commission JoinUp, 2016.

Review and Update of the World Bank Safeguard Policies. The World Bank is updating its policies protecting the poor and the environment in Bank- financed projects. In this regard it has launched the 3rd round of consultations on the proposed Environmental and Social Framework, focusing on implementation and on an indicative list of complex issues that require further discussion. Between August and December 2015, the World Bank has held consultations in 18 countries across all regions. This is part of the third phase of one of the largest consultation efforts the Bank has undertaken. Feedback on a list of outstanding issues and on the implementation of the proposed safeguards requirements on the ground has been rich and valuable. The World Bank closed the year 2015 with consultations in Niger and Nigeria. In early 2016 consultation events are planned for Cameroon, Rwanda, Turkey, Egypt, Vietnam, and Belgium (for European constituencies). Original language: English. Text also available in other languages on the World Bank's website. Protecting the Poor and the Environment in World Bank Investment Projects Economic development depends in part upon providing infrastructure and facilities that improve people’s lives and expand economic opportunities. This can be a road that allows a farmer to get goods to market. It can be access to electricity so hospitals can refrigerate medicines and children can do their homework at night. It can be clean water to reduce the incidence of easily preventable water-borne diseases that kill an estimated 1,400 children every day. Governments in developing countries often turn to the World Bank to help finance such projects and the Bank funds them because they know they can help to reduce poverty and improve living conditions. A cornerstone of the World Bank's work on investment projects is helping to ensure strong protections for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and for the environment. The World Bank’s current policies – often called “safeguards” – were developed over the last 20 years to help identify, avoid, and minimize harms to people and the environment. These safeguards require borrowing governments to address certain environmental and social risks in order to receive Bank financing for development projects. Examples of such requirements include conducting an environmental and social impact assessment, consulting with affected communities about potential project impacts, and restoring the livelihoods of displaced people. World Bank safeguards are widely seen as an effective way to ensure that environmental and social concerns and community voices are represented in the design and implementation of our projects. Review and Update of the World Bank's Safeguard Policies While the current safeguard policies have served the development community well for more than two decades by protecting the environment and the world’s poor and vulnerable in World Bank investment projects, the world has changed and new and varied development demands and challenges have arisen over time. The issues our clients face have shifted dramatically, and their ability to manage them – as well as the Bank’s - has significantly increased. The World Bank is now in the process of reviewing, updating and strengthening its environmental and social policies to keep pace with the changing times. It is committed to developing an environmental and social Framework that is better for people, the environment, and Borrowers. The review began in 2012 with the goal to: Enhance protections for the poor and the environment through modernized standards; Provide inclusive access to development benefits through the introduction of a non-discrimination principle; Strengthen partnerships with borrowing countries through closer cooperation and increased use of borrower frameworks; and Strengthen the World Bank’s leadership through a modernized safeguards framework. This reform touches on complex development matters, including Human Rights, climate change, and a number of social issues. Consultations on the first draft Environmental and Social Framework showed a wide range of views among shareholder governments and civil society groups. When the Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE) of the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors discussed the second draft of the proposed Framework, consensus emerged on the overall architecture and some of the proposed provisions. However, many issues remained open. CODE authorized consultations in order to continue efforts to find solutions where views are divided. Executive Directors requested the preparation of an indicative list of outstanding issues to guide discussions throughout the consultation process. Consultations will also focus on the feasibility to implement the proposed provisions on the ground and on the potential impact of the proposed Framework on Borrowers. Throughout consultations, the Bank will work with Borrowers to identify any additional support needed to implement the proposed provisions. The feedback received during consultations will inform the third draft Framework and the discussions of the World Bank’s Executive Directors as the reform of the safeguard policies proceeds. If you have comments or queries, please send them to safeguardconsult@worldbank.org. Consultation meeting dates are being confirmed. They will be posted on the indicated website above after confirmation with the host country. English
Publisher: The World Bank, 2016.

Annual EELF Conference 2016: Procedural Environmental Rights: Principle X in Theory and Practice, 14-16 September 2016, Wroclaw, Poland - Call for submission of abstracts. The 2016 Annual European Environmental Law Forum (EELF) Conference will be held in Wroclaw (Poland). The Conference will be dedicated to Procedural Environmental Rights of the public. The importance of procedural rights is currently widely recognised. They serve not only as a guarantee of the right to environment and a tool to increase participatory democracy and active involvement of the public in environmental protection but also as an effective instrument of monitoring compliance with- and enforcement of- environmental law. Following recognition of their importance, procedural environmental rights have increasingly been acknowledged in legal frameworks at the national, supranational and international level. The first comprehensive approach to procedural environmental rights at the international level was undertaken when access to information, public participation in decision making and access to justice in environmental matters were codified as non-binding principles in Principle X of the Rio Declaration. The binding international standard in relation to procedural environmental rights was set with the adoption in 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus of the UNECE Convention on access to information, public participation in decision making and access to justice in environmental matters (Aarhus Convention). The Conference aims to collect and compare the experience gained with the adoption and implementation of the procedural environmental rights under these various legal instruments. The organizers are hereby inviting submission of abstracts for presentations at the Conference. Presentations shall focus on the conference theme and address one of the following thematic clusters and subthemes. English, 2016.

France’s first Digital Law co-created with citizens. The French draft law Loi Numérique will be presented to the French Parliament on 19 January, after being co-created with citizens through an online public consultation. This is the first law in France resulting from a co-design process. This draft law is aimed at structuring the new French digital economy and includes new digital principles for it to succeed, like Open Data for example. Built with a model of co-creation, the law is an example of France’s involvement in Open Government principles, the government said. Supported by Axelle Lemaire, the Minister of State for the Digital Sector, the Loi Numérique was initially created via a national consultation in 2014 by the French Prime Minister and the CNLL (Conseil National du Logiciel Libre). Four thousand proposals were collected. A first draft law was then published by the French government and submitted to a public consultation through the website republique-numérique.fr between 26 September and 18 October 2015. The platform collected more than 8 500 proposals and 150 000 votes from 21 330 people. The government documented all these proposals and amendments (whether they were approved or not) and the draft law is now made up of 30 articles. It was submitted to the French council of ministers on 9 December and will be presented to Parliament in January. Open by default The draft law contains new principles, including ‘Digital death’, Net Neutrality, data portability, conservation of the internet connection and the right to be forgotten, amongst others, as detailed by the government. But it also defines the concept of ‘Open by default’, which states that the French public sector must publish its data in a standard format. The French state will also maintain a repository of usable licences that can be applied to datasets. The Loi Numérique requires general-purpose data to be made available and states that its quality needs to be homogenous and maintained. General-purpose data is key data that is often reused, for example the national land registry or the database of national addresses (Base d’Adresses Nationale or BAN), which was recently launched in France. English | French
Publisher: European Commission JoinUp service, 2016.

European Union: Court of Justice - ClientEarth and PAN Europe case - Case C-615/13 P - Summary with a link to the judgement. Access to information - Two cumulative conditions must be fulfilled for disclosure of the external experts names who made certain comments on the draft of the guidance document for applicants who whish to place plant protection products on the market: the transfer must be "necessary" and must not prejudice the legitimate interests of the data subject. Key words: access to information, placing of plant protection products on the market, disclosure of information, concept of personal data, confidentiality and transfer of personal data, Regulation EU 1049/2001 English
Publisher: UNECE / Task Force on Access to Justice
Court/Body: Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)
Decision date: 16 Jul 2015

European Union: Court of Justice - Reference for a preliminary ruling, FCD&FMB Case - Case C-106/14 - Summary with a link to the judgement. Access to product information - Interpretation of the obligation under the REACH Regulation to provide information on the presence of a substance of very high concern in an article. The main question was whether this obligation only covered products as a whole, or also products with individual components crossing the threshold. Key words: access to product information, Environment and protection of human health, duties to notify and provide information, Regulation 1907/2006, REACH Regulation English | French
Publisher: UNECE / Task Force on Access to Justice
Court/Body: Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)
Decision date: 10 Sep 2015

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