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Involving the public in international processes: Aarhus body explores possibility of guidelines

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An expert group established under the auspices of the Aarhus Convention (UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Environmental Matters) met on 3-4 June 2004 to explore the possibilities for developing guidelines on involving the public (including NGOs and other stakeholders) in international environment-related bodies and processes. The process stems from a small but significant provision in the Convention requiring its Parties to promote the application of the principles of the Convention in “international environmental decision-making processes and within the framework of international organizations in matters relating to the environment” (art. 3, para. 7). The obligation is on individual Parties rather than on the international bodies or processes themselves.


Nonetheless the implications could be farreaching, potentially having an indirect impact, in the

view of the expert group, extending beyond environmental bodies and processes in any narrow

sense. The purpose of guidelines would not be to create additional legal obligations on Parties but to assist them in fulfilling an obligation that they already have.


The expert group was composed of academics and experts designated by governments, international, intergovernmental and regional organizations, including MEA secretariats, and NGOs. Its interim results will be reviewed by the Bureau of the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention at its meeting next month, which will decide upon further steps, including whether to convene a second meeting of the expert group with a view to having a draft of guidelines ready for adoption at the 2nd meeting of the Parties to the Convention (Almaty, Kazakhstan, May 2005).


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