17 december 2009

[The following message was relayed from the WWF to Climate Action Network-Europe e-mail addresses on 16 December, in response to NGO exclusions ordered by the Danish government at the Copenhagen climate summit.]


The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), through the Aarhus Convention, mandates civil society participation in Climate Change discussions.

Since the 8th October 2009, The Aarhus Convention, itself a product of negotiations in Denmark, entered into force. The convention, which is The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, The Danish Government are signatories to, and have ratified, this Convention*. To seek to exclude civil society participants from this crucial discussion on the future well-being of our collective world, is a breach of the Danish authority’s own legal obligations as recognised under international law.

Article 1 of the Aarhus Convention States:

In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each Party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

Article 3.4 of the Aarhus Convention states that:

Each Party shall provide for appropriate recognition of and support to associations, organizations or groups promoting environmental protection and ensure that its national legal system is consistent with this obligation.

"Involving the public and civil society organizations in formulating and implementing a response to climate change is not a choice but a necessity."

Jan Kubis, UNECE Executive Secretary, High-level segment of the Sixty-third Session of the Economic Commission for Europe (30 March — 1 April 2009)

"The serious environmental, social and economic challenges faced by societies worldwide cannot be addressed by public authorities alone without the involvement and support of a wide range of stakeholders, including individual citizens and civil society organizations."

"Vision and Mission" of the Aarhus Convention Strategic Plan, paragraph 4, adopted by the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention, in Riga, Latvia, on 13 June 2008

"Although regional in scope, the significance of the Aarhus Convention is global. It is by far the most impressive elaboration of principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, which stresses the need for citizen's participation in environmental issues and for access to information on the environment held by public authorities."

"As such it is the most ambitious venture in the area of environmental democracy so far undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations."

Kofi A. Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997-2006)

The UK, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Spain and the European Community (amongst others) are also signatories to and have ratified this convention. The UK and other governments should urge the Danish authorities to allow NGO participants from civil societies around the world to be allowed to remain in the Bella Centre and continue their work.

WWF - for a living planet

WWF-UK, a charity registered in England number 1081247 and in Scotland number SC039593 and a company limited by guarantee registered in England number 4016725, whose registered office is at Panda House, Weyside Park, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 1XR.

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