Information Note on the CAREC activities on implementation of the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention)
The unique mandate allows CAREC to promote cooperation at local, national and regional levels between government agencies, international, civil society organizations, private sector and other stakeholders in solving environmental problems in Central Asia.
CAREC has been collaborating with civil society organizations (CSOs) since its inception. Over the years, the cooperation schemes have changed depending on existing opportunities, donors’ priorities and the availability of projects supporting CSOs as a target group. Strengthening cooperation with partners in the region, including with CSOs, is one of the strategic goals of CAREC development, reflected in its strategic documents.
In frames of implementation of the Aarhus Convention, CAREC works on the first two pillars of the convention, namely, providing access to information and ensuring public participation in decision-making in environmental matters. As for the third pillar - access to justice in environmental matters, CAREC does not work in this direction.
At the very beginning of its activity, CAREC provided a systematic support, including financial, to the national and regional CSOs of Central Asia in the framework of the Civil Initiatives Support Program from 2001 to 2008 with the purpose to build their institutional capacity and facilitate their participation in dialogues and decision-making processes. However, termination of institutional funding for CAREC in 2009 and reduction in funding for the projects supporting CSOs by international donors led to a significant decrease in CAREC's ability to provide such targeted assistance.
As a result, over the past 5 years, CAREC’s cooperation with Central Asian CSOs has been increasingly being built in the format of partnership through:
the work as members of the CAREC Board and the CAREC Public Advisory Council;
the practice of holding regular meetings with environmental NGOs by the CAREC country offices to discuss thematic issues at the national and regional levels, finding solutions and opportunities for cooperation, improving interaction with government bodies and exchanging news;
participation in regional and national projects carried out by CAREC, namely, involvement of CSOs in projects’ implementation, invitation of CSOs’ representatives as experts to implement specific project work/components, which helps CSOs build up their expertise and relations with international partners;
raising awareness and supporting public participation at the regional, national and local levels during CAREC events.
In the period from 2014 to 2019, CAREC implemented the Aarhus Convention, including within the framework of the developed “Concept of cooperation with NGOs”. At the end of 2019 - the beginning of 2020, CAREC has begun development of a new “Concept of Interaction with CSOs in Central Asia for the period 2020-2025”.
Today, CAREC's cooperation with CSOs is built in the format of partnerships and promoting their role on regional platforms, processes and initiatives, such as the Central Asian International Environmental Forum (CAIEF), the Central Asian Conference on Climate Change (CACCC), and the Central Asian Leadership Program (CALP), updating the Central Asian Regional Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development Program, environmental initiatives in Central Asia, etc.
CAREC also contributes to the implementation of the Aarhus Convention indirectly and as follows:
- through organization of annual regional conferences and forums;
meetings on climate change, where the issues of access to climate information, solutions and financing are raised;
meetings on water management, which the issues of water quality, data availability and information exchange are discussed;
fulfilling obligations on the various environmental conventions, where access to information is a priority;
activities on the greening of the economy, which indicates the relationship of the environment and sustainable development;
through the joint implementation of pilot projects as a part of large projects;
by inviting representatives of the CSOs of Central Asia as speakers, moderators and facilitators of national and regional events.
For example, on September 16-25, 2019, the 10th Central Asian Anniversary Leadership Program on Environment for Sustainable Development was successfully held in Almaty. The agenda of the CALP was related to the themes of the green economy, water resources management, water diplomacy, green energy and gender equality. At the 10th Anniversary CALP, more than 15 representatives of Central Asia CSOs acted as facilitators, moderators and speakers and shared their unique experiences in the field of green energy, sustainable agriculture, waste management, etc.
Thus, the implementation of projects to a large extent allows CAREC to invite to participate in them and work closely with representatives of civil society, and CAREC works with national CSOs on a number of projects. For example, within the framework of the UzWaterAware project in the Republic of Uzbekistan, support was provided to 17 national and local CSOs in order to increase public awareness on water issues.
In 2019, the CAMP4ASB project laid the foundation for strengthening regional and national activities of non-governmental organizations and civil society networks working on climate change issues. During the CACCC-2019 in Tashkent on April 5, 2019, a Round Table of NGOs representing the climate networks of Central Asia was organized, and the Memorandum was signed on the creation of a Regional Network of Civil Society Organizations on Climate Change (RNCSO), with the support of the World Bank's CAMP4ASB project. The RNCSO includes the Ecoforum of Kazakhstani NGOs, the Climate Network of Kyrgyzstan, the Climate Network of Tajikistan, the Society for Nature Protection of Turkmenistan and the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan.
The goal of the RNCSO is to support the regional efforts of civil society organizations in the context of the global post-Paris climate process in Central Asia, as well as to unite the efforts of NGOs and civil society networks for more effective coordinated implementation of regional and national climate change priorities and policies in Central Asia. Within the framework of the RNSCO, in 2019, 4 national events were supported in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and at the beginning of 2020, meetings are planned in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. It is expected that CSOs implementing a number of important adaptation programs at the local level will now have the opportunity to join forces at the regional level to implement a joint action plan and improve climate change information exchange.
In this way, CAREC provides support to CAR civil society organizations in providing them access to information, capacity building and exchange of experience and good practices on CAREC regional platforms - CAIEF, CACCC and CALP.
Proposal to the OSCE: Consider CAREC as a regional platform for supporting networking between CSOs and Aarhus Centers of Central Asia and Europe to exchange experiences, coordinate activities and support CSOs, in cooperation with the UNECE Secretariat for the Aarhus Convention and the OSCE Programme Offices in Central Asia.
Background: The Aarhus Convention promotes access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, as well as the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to achieve good governance, a healthy environment and sustainable development. The implementation of the convention is carried out through the Aarhus Centers, which are created with the support of the OSCE. CAREC has no projects directly related to the Aarhus Convention.
UNECE website for the implementation of the Aarhus Convention: https://www.unece.org/env/pp/welcome.html