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The Fourth Meeting of the Aarhus Convention Task Force on Access to Information

Monday, 04 January 2016
The fourth meeting of the Task Force on Access to Information under the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) was held from 8 to 10 December 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting was attended by a wide range of representatives of the Convention’s Contracting Parties, non-governmental organizations, academia, businesses and international organizations. The utmost objective of the meeting was to exchange information, experiences and best practices on the sharing and dissemination of environmental information and to promote widely the relevance of implementation of the first pillar of the Convention to achieving SDGs.

Throughout the three days of the meeting, delegates’ discussion focused on issues related to the scope, quality and associated costs of environmental information, , the application of certain restrictions on access to environmental information being in line with  the Convention’s provisions, the dissemination of environmental information through electronic information tools and the further development of the Aarhus Clearinghouse and national nodes. More specifically, participants  recognized the need to further promote, inter alia,  the effective access to information having a bearing on the quality of the environment and emissions into the environment, hazardous substances and wastes, decision-making in environmental matters and environment-related product information. Furthermore, participants shared practical experience in dealing with requests for sensitive environmental information, whether it concerned the proceedings of public authorities, investigations, national security and defence, internal correspondence or commercial and industrial information.

Additionally, the Task Force invited the Contacting Parties to provide more detailed information on the implementation of Convention’s article 4, paragraph 4, (refusal of providing environmental information), through the submission of national implementation reports, It also stressed the importance of ensuring the public online access to up-to-date air quality data and to environmental information in the context of green economy. In addition, many delegates advocated the need for encouraging the active and effective dissemination of environmental information through websites, mobile applications, social media and other tools. During the discussion, they had the chance  to exchange essential information and fruitful experience on this matter. Last but not least, participants  exchanged their views on the current developments taking place with regard to the functioning of the shared environmental information systems and  the associated  activities undertaken in the context of different international forums.

The outcomes of the fourth Task Force meeting is expected to further facilitate the sharing of environmental information and contribute to more effective cooperation between different public authorities, non-governmental organizations, Aarhus Centres and other stakeholders, and simultaneously help achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

Source: UNECE
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