This area of expertise combines aspects related to both local governance and participatory governance. It 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). The REC supports local governance by improving environmental planning and integrating it in all sectors; improving environmental management; and providing pilot small-scale priority environmental investments. By strengthening local institutions; addressing environmental degradation; promoting the sustainable use of resources; reducing the negative effects of shifts in political structures; and enhancing the speed of institutional reforms, activities in this area are aimed at building the capacities of local institutions in Ukraine, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and South Eastern Europe (SEE) in the fields of sustainability planning and management.
Support to civil society organisations (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 REC'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).
Within the context of local goverance, the primary objectives are to:
- continue assisting local communities to draft local environmental action plans (LEAPs), local water security action plans (LWSAPs) and local energy security action plans (LESAPs), with a focus on communities in Ukraine, the MENA region and SEE;
- support the implementation of local small-scale environmental investment projects identified in local planning documents;
- further explore opportunities to develop topic-specific local planning methodologies and tools in order to respond to the growing need of local communities to address sustainable development challenges (including climate change responses and the sustainable use of natural resources);
- provide training on local sustainable development for representatives of national and local administrations from Ukraine, the MENA region and SEE; and
- provide support to communities and schools to improve sustainable development practices and environmental governance in selected communities in the SEE region.
Key activities in this area of expertise include:
- supporting parties to the Aarhus Convention to achieve more effective implementation in areas identified as major gaps or difficulties in SEE;
- 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);
- developing local environmental action programmes (LEAPs) and facilitating small-scale pilot environmental investments in local communities;
- 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; and
- 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.