The topic area puts participatory governance into practice in the field of environmental and sustainable development by supporting public access to information, public participation in decision making and access to justice. It provides support to civil society by strengthening its role and improving knowledge, skills, capacities, infrastructure, viability and involvement in environmental decision making. Environmental stakeholders are given legislative and institutional support, as well as capacity building on the practical implementation of international, EU and national legislation (including the Aarhus Convention and the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR Protocol). Experiences are shared among EU member states, the countries of South Eastern Europe (SEE), Turkey and Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA). Best practices in participatory governance and public participation are identified, promoted and integrated into the water, waste, energy, transport, nature protection, climate change, and sustainable consumption and production sectors.
The topic area aims to strengthen and enable key players in participatory governance as well as those responsible for the practical implementation of international, EU and national legislation (such as the Aarhus Convention, the PRTR Protocol and related EU directives, and the Regulation concerning the establishment of a European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register [E-PRTR Regulation]) in new EU member states, SEE, Turkey and EECCA countries. Support to civil society organizations (CSOs) is provided in the form of grants, capacity building, networking and a CSO viability programme. Various capacity-building tools are used to train civil society leaders and to strengthen cooperation among CSOs, as well as between authorities and civil society, in order to enhance their influence in decision-making processes.
More specifically, the topic area's goals are to:
- provide assessments, recommendations and capacity building for government officials, NGOs and other stakeholders;
- enable multi-stakeholder dialogue;
- promote the practical implementation of the Aarhus Convention, other international agreements, and EU and national legislation;
- assist in preparations for and the ratification of the PRTR Protocol and in building the capacities of officials, operators and NGOs;
- support the implementation of the public participation requirements of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and river basin management plans, including stakeholder involvement strategies; and
- strengthen participatory approaches and facilitates public/stakeholder consultations at the European, regional and national level in various processes and sectors (e.g. nuclear energy issues, transportation, urban planning, sustainable consumption and production, climate change and waste).
Topic area activities focus on the following areas:
- Supporting parties to the Aarhus Convention to achieve more effective implementation in areas identified as major gaps or difficulties in SEE.
- Supporting Kosovo (as defined by UNSCR 1244) to harmonise its legislation and practices towards the goals of the Aarhus Convention.
- Developing and implementing a capacity-building programme for officials and NGOs at local and regional level in SEE to help integrate and apply public participation in decision making in the areas of environmental impact assessment (EIA), strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC).
- Raising awareness and building the capacities of judges, prosecutors, ministry officials and NGOs regarding the implementation of the access to justice pillar of the Aarhus Convention, related EU directives and national legislation, and encouraging dialogue on reducing/removing barriers to access to justice in SEE.
- Assisting environmental agencies to set up and operate PRTR systems in line with the PRTR Protocol and the EU's E-PRTR requirements; supporting preparations for the ratification of the PRTR Protocol; and raising awareness and understanding among operators and NGOs regarding their role and responsibilities and the benefits for SEE countries.
- Integrating public participation requirements in various fields, including water management and WFD implementation; nuclear and other energy issues; climate change; local environmental action plans (LEAPs); sustainable consumption and production; Natura 2000; and waste management.