Speech to the Aarhus Convention Meeting of the Parties Wed 29th June 2011

Text of speech by Michael Ewing, Coordinator of the Environmental Pillar
Thank you chair
The European ECO Forum would like to begin by thanking the Chair of the Task Force on Public Participation for his comprehensive and thoughtful report, and the members of the Task Force for their hard work to date in what is an enormous and highly relevant work-plan.
The necessity for involving the public at all levels of governance in decisions that affect the environment has never been more obvious.  The well-being of this and future generations and indeed the survival of the human species will depend on the decisions that we take in the very near future.  The natural services that have made this planet a great place to live are in rapid decline and there is an urgent need in the first instance to make every person on the planet aware of this fact.
At the same time there is a need to involve everyone in making decisions about the route to a sustainable future for their families, communities, nations and global humanity.
There is a great deal of work to be done on the way in which these decisions are made and the methods employed to enable involvement of the public.
The establishment of the taskforce on public participation will be seen in the history books as a major turning point in the move to a sustainable future for humanity, but only if the Parties engage actively with its work and translate its findings and recommendations into new, inclusive and effective ways of the all the peoples of the planet having conversations as equals about the many important issues that face our societies.
It is in this context then that the European ECO Forum enthusiastically welcomed the establishment of the Task Force.  The role of the Irish government in this is particularly notable particularly in agreeing to continue to act as the lead country at a time of serious economic challenges.
The European ECO Forum welcomes the approval of the draft work plan of the Task Force on Public Participation by the 13th Working Group of the Parties (WGP-13), as well as the Working Group’s decision that it should be forwarded for consideration by the 4th Meeting of the Parties.
The inclusion by the 14th Working Group of the Parties of a more accurate description of the provisions of the draft work plan of the Task Force on Public Participation in the draft decision on the work programme is a welcome improvement.
The European ECO Forum now urges the Parties to give whole-hearted support to this urgent and important work that focuses on the heart of the Convention.