The 2020 Aarhus Centres Annual Meeting, held online on 10 and 11 November 2020, brought together Aarhus Centres representatives, National Focal Points to the Aarhus Convention, representatives of non-governmental organizations, international organizations and the OSCE field operations.
This year’s focus was on the role of Aarhus Centres in ensuring environmental democracy in times of disaster and post-disaster recovery; gender mainstreaming into Aarhus Centres activities, and contributing to promoting and achieving sustainable development.
“The Aarhus Convention, at the basis of the Aarhus Centres work, is more than an environmental agreement. It is about governments’ accountability, transparency, and environmental human rights”, said Vuk Žugić, Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities. “The linkages between environment, security and sustainable development are at the forefront of the Aarhus Centres’ activities. An example is our project on Stakeholder Engagement in the Uranium Legacy Remediation in Central Asia – one of the OSCE key activities in the field.”
Ivis Noçka, Head of the Economic and Environmental Dimension Unit of 2020 Albania’s Chair, explained how the Aarhus Centres contribute to the OSCE comprehensive approach to security. “The Centers are a unique instrument for promoting community-based efforts to reduce disaster risks and security-related impacts,” said Nocka.
Dr. Marco Keiner, Director of the Environment Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), said that UNECE is particularly pleased that Aarhus Centres continue serving as a platform to promote multi-stakeholder dialogue on how to apply the Aarhus Convention and other multilateral environmental agreements for advancing Sustainable Development Goals. “Aarhus Centres are unique neutral entities that can assist authorities to promote public participation in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic and during the post-pandemic recovery.”
Ambassador Tobias Lorentzson, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Swedish Delegation to the OSCE noted the importance of a relevant contribution of the Aarhus Centers in organizing workshops, public hearings, roundtable discussions on disaster risk reduction. “Where local communities do not have adequate knowledge on how to intervene in times of emergency, Aarhus Centres come into play and make it happen,” he said. .
Organized every year by the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, the Aarhus Centres Annual Meeting strengthens discussions on the involvement of Aarhus Centres in fostering good environmental governance, sharing experiences and best practices, and identifying new opportunities.