Main objectives: Promotion of the Aarhus Convention at the national level, supporting the country in its effective implementation, establishment of higher standards of environmental protection.
Implementation: With the support of OSCE, the Aarhus Centre Georgia was established in 2005. Only 3 persons were engaged in the daily work of the Centre along with a lawyer who was invited to assist particularly in relation the third access to justice pillar of the Aarhus Convention. The Centre worked on all three dimensions of the Convention with the aim of guaranteeing the full and proper implementation of the Convention. In particular:
1. In order to ensure easy access to environmental information, the Centre:
- developed an informational website that was constantly updated and developed;
- established an environmental library;
- elaborated different guidelines to raise public awareness on how to request and receive environmental information, how to receive permits and licenses for utilization of natural resources, etc.;
- disseminated information regularly on public hearings in Georgia;
- organized different environmental educational and awareness-raising campaigns;
- presented a regular bi-monthly live environmental radio program “Green Newsletter”;
- provided relevant information to the Clearing-House Mechanism of the Aarhus Convention on a regular basis; etc.
2. In order to promote public participation, the Centre:
- contributed to organization of public hearings on different strategic and policy documents and produced summaries/reports of such meetings;
- facilitated and funded the publication of specific guidelines for investors on the procedures for conducting public hearings;
- monitored public participation in public hearings and developed final reports with recommendations for government and the public; etc.
3. In order to strengthen the access to justice component, the Centre:
- provided free access to the electronic version of the Legal Code of Georgia;
- contributed to raising awareness about the Aarhus Convention among Georgian judges;
- prepared analytical reports providing legislative and institutional analyses of the implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Georgia;
- provided free legal consultations concerning environmental matters and the Aarhus Convention; etc.
Moreover, the Centre regularly hosted training sessions, seminars, workshops and different public awareness and educational activities under the Aarhus Centre mandate.
Result: Awareness about the Aarhus Convention on the part of the government and civil society has been raised throughout the country; environmental information has become more available to members of the public on demand; the public has become more active and competent in environmental matters; participation in public hearings and meetings has increased and procedures have been improved; the sense of responsibility of developers, who have been obliged to conduct public hearings, has been raised; government accountability in environmental matters has been increased; etc. Such developments revealed potential to expand activities around the country under the Aarhus Convention further, requiring even more effort. A lot of work was done. As a result, on the basis of the Aarhus Centre Georgia, a new Environmental Information and Education Centre (EIEC) was established under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection in 2013 with expanded tasks and capacity.
Why do you think this example shows how the Aarhus Convention made a difference in your country?
The huge effort of the staff of the Aarhus Centre and all persons involved in its activities played an important role in the advancement of the Aarhus Convention as a useful mechanism for the protection of the environment, which in its turn contributed to a further increase in demand for establishment of higher environmental standards in the country. The Aarhus Centre and later the EIEC have made a tangible difference in the development of environmental democracy at the national level. Elaboration and adoption of a new Environmental Assessment Code in 2017 should be mentioned as one of the examples in this direction, as the Code establishes a wider and more effective public participation procedure that is in compliance with international best practice. Moreover, all government institutions will be engaged in the implementation of the Code, which will support further strengthening of environmental protection as well as effective implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Georgia.