The Virtual Classroom on PRTR was formally launched on May 3rd 2004 at the occasion of the Meeting of the Working Group of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention which took place May 3rd and 4th in Geneva.
The "Virtual Classroom" is a pilot project on exchanging knowledge about Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR) between member countries of the Aarhus Convention and participating organizations. The main objectives of the Virtual Classroom are: to facilitate and support the development of national PRTR systems, to allow countries to access individuals and organizations with experience and knowledge on PRTRs; and to create a virtual environment to exchange information on PRTR related issues, by using modern technology. Any person involved on PRTR issues can participate in this initiative by registering to this site.
For registration, please see the section on "How to join the VC".
The Virtual Classroom pilot phase is sponsored by the Netherlands and UNITAR has been designated as the Central Coordinating Organization for this initiative.
The origin of the proposal to develop a PRTR Virtual Classroom (VC) dates back to the negotiation process to develop a legally binding instrument on PRTR under the Aarhus Convention. The Protocol contains a legal obligation for participating countries to establish a national PRTR system, which provides information to the public about the sources of pollution and their emissions. During the negotiations it became clear that information gaps existed between countries having operational PRTR systems and those who are starting to develop a PRTR system.
The idea of establishing a Virtual Classroom was also formally endorsed by the Kiev Ministerial Conference in 2003. As a result of its experience with PRTR training and capacity building, UNITAR has agreed to host the PRTR VC. In supporting the PRTR VC, UNITAR will work closely with the OECD, UNECE and UNEP, as well as with other members of the IOMC PRTR Coordinating Group. It is suggested that discussions about the PRTR VC become a standing item of the Group's meeting. As the central node for the PRTR VC, UNITAR will establish close links with existing PRTR initiatives that may contribute to PRTR capacity building, including the OECD PRTR Taskforce, the UNECE Taskforce on Emission Inventories, the tri-national (United States of America-Canada-Mexico) Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) and regional supporting organisations such as the Regional Environmental Centers (REC). In practice this means maintaining close contacts with the secretariats of these organisations, thereby facilitating access to information generated by their existing technical networks in an ongoing manner.
At the operational level, UNITAR will appoint moderators for specific discussion subjects. The selection of specific PRTR subjects is dependant on the problems experienced in participating countries. In this regard, a strong relationship with the people working on those subjects of PRTR development is essential.
Visit the Virtual Classroom at http://prtrvc.unitar.org