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Contributing to the Implementation of the Mediterranean Strategy on Sustainable Development (MSSD): MEPIELAN Centre Submits Concept Notes on Launching Two MSSD Flagship Initiatives (20th Meeting of the MCSD Steering Committee, Athens, 23-24 January 2019)
January 23, 2019
MEPIELAN Centre as a Member of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) substantially contributed to the implementation of the Mediterranean Strategy on Sustainable Development (MSSD) and its Objective 6 Improving Governance in support of Sustainable Development by drafting the Concept Note of the MSSD Flagship Initiative on developing capacity building programmes on issues related to implementation and compliance with environmental obligations and agreements (Flagship Initiative 6.3.5) and by cooperating with COMPSUD and MIO-ECSDE in the drafting of the Concept Note of the MSSD Flagship Initiative on Public Participation via the Aarhus Convention (Flagship Initiative 6.2.3). Both Concept Notes were submitted to the MCSD Steering Committee and were taken note by the 20th Meeting of the MCSD Steering Committee, held in Athens, 23-24 January 2019, constituting sections D and C respectively of the Annex I: MSSD Flagship Initiatives – Draft Concept Notes to the Document Work Plan of the MCSD Steering Committee for the Biennium 2018-2019, including the Preparation of the 18th Meeting of the MCSD – Updated Work Plan (UNEP/MED WG.456/4). More specifically:
I. Concept Note to put in motion the MSSD Flagship initiative “Develop capacity building programmes on issues related to implementation and compliance with environmental obligations and agreements, including environmental impact assessments (EIA)
MEPIELAN CENTRE, as a Member of the MCSD and following guidelines provided by the UNEP/MAP Secretariat, drafted this Concept Note concept submitted it to the MCSD Steering Committee. Based on the discussions and conclusions of the 19th Meeting of the MCSD Steering Committee, this Concept Note attempts to provide proposals for ways and means to put in motion the MSSD Flagship Initiative on developing capacity building programmes on issues related to implementation and compliance with environmental obligations and agreements, as well as on the scope, rationale, content, indicative timeline and activities and possible leader of this Flagship Initiative.
The background of this concept note is the MSSD Objective 6 Improving Governance in support of Sustainable Development and, more specifically, its Strategic Direction 6.3, Promote implementation and compliance with environmental obligations and agreements including through policy coherence based on inter-ministerial coordination which contains Flagship Initiative 6.3.5 on developing capacity-building programmes on issues related to implementation and compliance with environmental obligations and agreements, including environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental assessments.
As is stated: “The Strategy promotes implementation and compliance with environmental obligations and agreements to guide actions at national and regional levels (strategic direction 6.3). It highlights the importance of ensuring policy coherence, based on mechanisms for inter-ministerial coordination and cross-sectoral planning. The Strategy promotes the implementation of the precautionary principle through instruments such as environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental assessments. It encourages the support, through legal provisions where relevant, of partnerships in planning and implementation, including but not limited to private sector involvement, public-private partnerships, and innovative financing at regional (subnational) and/or local level”
According to the concept note of MEPIELAN Centre, “the key areas that require capacity-building actions related to the implementation and compliance of the Barcelona Convention system (the Barcelona Convention and its seven Protocols) and the interconnected Mediterranean Action Plan (BCS/MAP), otherwise the Barcelona Convention environmental regime, should be considered in a flexible and transparent manner, based on a contextual, integrated and process approach to law and governance. Such an approach will address the need for an integrated, sustainably implementing, relationally complying with, and continuously evolving BCS/MAP in relation to the internal context (different situations, needs, capabilities and stages of development of each Contracting Party) and the external context (relevant international conventional environmental regimes) and the promotion of synergies and actions related to capacity-building.
The key areas that require capacity-building actions related to the implementation and compliance of the BCS/MAP refer to:
The stewardship-related and participatory application of the precautionary approach
The advancement of trusteeship approaches to participatory governance as sustainability-related innovative legal conceptions and practices
The development of the capacity to enhance policy coherence for sustainable development through institutional interlinkages related to global and regional conventional (treaty-based) regimes related to environmental sustainability and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The development of the capacity to negotiate implementative and governance aspects of the BCS and introduce the “talanoa dialogue” for discussion and participation at the local and regional level
In their combination, these Key Areas of Capacity Building Actions not only strengthen, in a substantive and practical manner, the participatory approach to the effective and efficient implementation and compliance of the BCS in coherence with the international and national contexts of their development. They also point to the urgent need for recognizing the importance of law and policy protection of the interests of the vulnerable “voiceless community” (future generations, wildlife, natural resources), thus making law and governance of the BCS to be evolved into a more sustainability-equipped, stewardship-focused and ecosystem-serving conventional regime. Hence, a more effective and efficient environmental governance is operated addressing important gaps in this governance, already indicated in the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development, like “horizontal and vertical fragmentation of responsibility”, “uncoordinated and non-result based implementation”, “inadequate awareness and education”, and the imperative need to “devise new forms of institutions based on discussion and participation, as well as innovative legal conceptions and constructive practices directly related to sustainability governance”. Τhe MCSD Steering Committee Meeting underlined the innovative and added value character of the Concept Note of Flagship Initiative 6.3.5.
II. Concept Note on launching the MSSD Flagship initiative to Encourage the accession to and implementation of the Aarhus Convention on Public Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention)
MEPIELAN Centre, as a Member of the MCSD and within the sphere of its law and policy competence, MEPIELAN CENTRE cooperated with COMPSUD and MIO-ECSDE for the drafting of this concept note which was submitted to the MCSD Steering Committee.
Based on the discussions and conclusions of the 19th Meeting of the MCSD Steering Committee, this Concept Note attempts to provide proposals for ways and means to put in motion the MSSD Flagship Initiative on Public Participation via the Aarhus Convention, as well as on the scope, rationale, content, indicative timeline and activities and possible leader of this Flagship Initiative.
The background of this concept note is the MSSD Objective 6 Improving Governance in Support of Sustainable Development and, more specifically, its Strategic Direction 6.2 Promote the engagement of civil society, scientists, local communities and other stakeholders in the governance process at all levels, in order to secure inclusive processes and integrity in decision-making, which contains Flagship Initiative 6.2.3 on the accession to the Aarhus Convention.
As is stated “Public participation is particularly important at the local level, which is the level of government closest to the people, and the level of decision-making where many environment-related decisions are taken. Increased public participation has to be achieved through support for national and local governments and institutions by means of improved legal frameworks and human and financial resources, and has to include skills related to partnership building, negotiation and conflict resolution. The MSSD also envisages support for and strengthening of the organizational capacity of local, national and regional stakeholders, including voluntary organizations, cooperatives, associations, networks, and producer groups, in terms of legal frameworks and human and financial resources. That will contribute to better decision-making, implementation of policies, plans and projects, and monitoring”.
Contributing to activities aimed at familiarization with and promotion of the accession to the Aarhus Convention of this MSSD Flagship Initiative, the specific contribution of MEPIELAN Centre focused on three interrelated directions.
First, with respect to the political dimension of this Flagship Initiative, MEPIELAN Centre stressed the need for developing capacity building through training on targeted creative negotiation knowledge and skills for the construction of environmental common interest. Such training on creative negotiation knowledge is required in view of the catalytic interconnection between law and policy aspects associated with the process of development of the Aarhus Convention regime, as well as its promotion and expansion to other States.
Second, with respect to the law and governance dimension of this Flagship Initiative, MEPIELAN Centre pointed out the need for exploring the compatibility of the legislation of the Contracting Parties with the provisions of the Aarhus Convention in combination with the necessary institutional arrangements for the effective exercise of the procedural rights set in the Convention. The proposed reformative actions may include an evaluation of the relevant decision-making processes by public authorities, the establishment of specific administrative bodies or other independent institutions, the promotion of active engagement of the subnational levels of government (municipalities, regional authorities) in decision-making process, and dissemination of best practices.
Finally, MEPIELAN Centre underlined, as an important “added value” for this MSSD Flagship Initiative, the examination of the interaction between the Aarhus Convention and the very recently adopted Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2018 (the Escaz? Agreement) for the purpose of developing an appropriate platform of facilitating the accession of Developing States to the Aarhus Convention. This platform will more effectively prepare and support the process of exploring the expansion of operation of the Aarhus Convention, by taking into account the distinctive contextual particularities associated with such an expansion, the need for their informed management at all levels, and in the light of the implementation of the transformative Sustainable Development Goals (especially SDG 17 and SDG 16).
MEPIELAN Centre is an international research, training and educational centre established by Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos at the Panteion University of Athens in 2008.
Before its establishment as a University Centre, MEPIELAN operated as a successful international research, training and informational programme (2002-2007) under the scientific direction of Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos and the aegis of the Panteion University of Athens, supported by the Mediterranean Action Plan/UNEP and the Greek Ministry of the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works.
MEPIELAN Centre is an accredited UNEP/MAP PARTNER (since 2013), a Member of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) (since 2016), and a Member of the Steering Committee of the MCSD (since 2019).
On 22 May 2022, MEPIELAN Centre proceeded to the development of MEPIELAN as a Non- Profit Civil Organization (INGO) for the more effective and efficient advancement of its Goals and Missions and furtherance of its activities. MEPIELAN Centre as a Non- Profit Civil Organization (INGO) is registered in Greek Law (Hellenic Business Registry, Reg. No. 16477300100) in accordance with Laws 4072/2012 & 4919/2022 as applicable
A first ever Regional Training dedicated to the Promotion of the Aarhus Convention in the whole of the Mediterranean was co-organized by the EU funded “Water and Environment Support (WES) in the ENI Neighbourhood South Region” project and the UNECE Aarhus Convention Secretariat, in Athens, Greece, on the 14th and 15th of November 2023.
The 2023 Annual Meeting of Aarhus Centres, organized by the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) in close collaboration with the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe and the Committee for Environmental Protection under the Government of Tajikistan was was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and virtually on 17 and 18 October 2023.