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REC “Master Class” reveals status of Aarhus Convention implementation in the Western Balkans - and maps areas for improvement

During 2008, the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC) developed and hosted a 5-day training course for civil society organizations (CSOs) known as Master Class. Through approximately 30 local trainers, REC offered guidance to CSOs on how to use the existing legal frameworks to effect environmental change and make a difference within their urban environment. Assisted by local authors, the REC overviewed national legislation in seven western Balkan countries and documented CSO experiences in its application. These findings were accompanied by “how to…” guidelines that served as Master Class’ course materials. Three of the course’s five “modules” reflected the pillars of the Aarhus Convention, including Watchdogging (Access to Information); Public participation and Legal Recourse (Access to Justice). The other two modules were Lobbying and Effective Communication. The research amounts to an up-to-date "survey" on the implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Croatia. The materials, including around 10-15 case studies per country and the results of all Class’ group exercises, are available in English and the local language (in Kosovo in Serbian and Albanian). The exercise concerning “challenges, obstacles and recommendations for improvement” per module may be of particular interest, as de-facto it serves as a survey of NGO concerns vis-à-vis national legislation in these fields (each class was attended by between 25 and 40 CSO representatives). These findings (part of Annex III) will be discussed at a regional conference, held in November 2009 in Sarajevo where Class students were invited to share their experiences one year on from the Class. Master Class’ materials can be downloaded from: http://ftp.rec.org/memberftp/Jerome/Resource%20Materials/.

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