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.
In its efforts to promote Environmental Governance in the Mediterranean by encouraging the accession to and implementation of the Aarhus Convention, WES has joined forces not only with the UNECE Aarhus Convention Secretariat, but also the Barcelona Convention system, the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the Circle of Mediterranean Parliamentarians for Sustainable Development (COMPSUD), the Energy, Environment and Water Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean (PA-UfM) and the MEPIELAN Centre, all of whom had the opportunity to share their experiences and plans.
The main purpose of this 2-day regional training, that is part of an ongoing WES Peer-to-Peer process (since February 2023), was to strengthen the implementation capacity of public authorities, country experts, NGOs and other stakeholders on the main pillars of the Aarhus Convention: access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to Justice, as well as on the application of the principles of the Aarhus Convention in international decision-making.
During her opening remarks, Ms Ella Behlyarova, Secretary to the Aarhus Convention, Environment Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), underlined that “the accession to the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol will drive the development of national legislation and practice, bringing positive changes that would otherwise not occur. Being a Party to such agreements will help to respond to numerous environmental challenges such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, air and water pollution, and ensure implementation of Agenda 2030, in particular its Goal 16, to the common standards”
The WES Team Leader, Prof. Michael Scoullos, expressed gratification and enthusiasm that the WES Partner Countries have shown concrete commitment and are making a genuine effort to embrace this challenging yet highly beneficial instrument – so crucial in achieving sustainable development in the Mediterranean region.
The 18 appointed high-ranking Peers from Ministries of Environment, Water, Foreign Affairs, Justice, etc. that came to Athens were very engaged in the discussions that followed the presentations and interactive exercises on the provisions of the Convention, its principles and practical implementation. Diverse experiences of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention were also shared and discussed.
Prof. Evangelos Raftopoulos, Director of MEPIELAN Centre, was the main speaker of the Session “Supporting Capacity Building and Implementation on the ground” on Day 2: 15 November 2023. He presented the topic “Aarhus Centre in Greece – A Case in Progress: The MEPIELAN Initiative”.
After a brief review of MEIPELAN’s actions so far in the international field for the establishment of an Aarhus Centre in Greece hosted by MEPIELAN Centre (series of online meetings with the Secretariat of the UNECE Aarhus Convention, the Office of the Coordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities of the OSCE (OCEEA), Aarhus Centres in the Balkans), and at the current delicate stage of the process of its activation in Greece, Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos focused his presentation on three pillars of the development of MEPIELAN’s Aarhus Centre:
- Its Institutional Set-up – an NGO-based Aarhus Centre hosted by MEPIELAN, independent of Government, operating as an OSCE Project, and providing a bridging element with the competent public authorities, international organizations, academic institutions and civil society through its Governing Board structure
- Its Geographical Focus – a national Aarhus Centre with regional scope, operating under the umbrella of the OSCE and UNEP/MAP
- Its Specific Work Area – Supporting the implementation of the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention in Greece, supporting the implementation of the Aarhus Convention in a transboundary context, building of negotiating capacity to promote the Aarhus Convention in international decision-making processes and fora, promoting participatory environmental governance-by-dialogue, providing a hub of participatory knowledge, promoting the implementation of the Aarhus Convention in the Barcelona Convention system, promoting the public trust approach to sustainability governance, and providing a platform for the protection of environmental defenders, promoting energy democracy and energy justice
About the author
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