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Improving Environmental Management in Armenia

International obligations in environmental management in Armenia(26.09.2007) In cooperation with Armenian authorities and organizations, FNI on 18-21 September organized a seminar on international environmental obligations, domestic implementation and public participation in Armenia. The seminar followed-up a seminar FNI co-hosted with the Armenian Ministry of Nature Protection in 2006.

Since Armenia's independence in 1991, the republic has signed and ratified a number of international environmental treaties (16), but there are substantial obstacles in the implementation process. As Armenia is struggling to recover from the economic crisis and general hardships following independence, the war over Nagorno-Karabagh and the blockade from neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan, the authorities' main priority is economic growth, and environment has a relatively lower priority.

Pål Skedsmo"However, in our dialogue with Armenian governmental bodies and civil society, we have tried to encourage a change towards the need for political will as well as political feasability in the ongoing implementation process," tells FNI Project Leader Pål Skedsmo.

The seminar discussed the implementation process, significance and efficiency of multilateral environmental treaties (MEAs) against a backdrop of introductory lectures on MEAs ratified by the Republic of Armenia. Among those presented were the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Cartagena protocol on Biosafety, the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention), and the Convention of the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Berne Convention). The development of a second National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP-2) in Armenia was also discussed.

International and Norwegian experiences with environmental management and good governance were presented and discussed. In particular the need for horizontal as well as vertical co-operation in environmental management was stressed, and the following discussions revealed that the need for this is considerable in Armenia. The various ministries, agencies and other government bodies need to enhance their horizontal co-operation and sharing of information. Regarding vertical co-operation, delegation of power and responsibilities from the national to the local level should be improved.

Photo: Karen JenderedjianThe final section at the seminar included presentations and discussions on the role of civil society in general and environmental NGOs in particular. Civil society in Armenia is getting stronger and more assertive, but is nevertheless riddled by many of the challenges facing civil society in post-Soviet states such as weak support from the state, limited public participation and a too great reliance on international donors. Several participants at the seminar called for closer co-operation between the local communities and civil society.

"It is our impression that these seminars, where a broad range of civil servants as well as civil society representatives participate, facilitate and improves dialogue between various sectors in Armenia. Several of the participants indeed said they would bring the discussions at the seminar back to their various ministries in order to continue the work with enhancing cross-sectorial co-operation there. Feedback FNI has received after last year's seminar, from representatives of both the authorities, civil society and international organizations, has also been positive in this respect," says Skedsmo.

Approximately 30 representatives from the civil service, environmental NGOs and the scientific sector participated. The project is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

More information:
   Environmental management and civil society in Armenia (project homepage)
   Seminar programme
 The Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) is an independent foundation engaged in research on international environmental, energy, and resource management politics.
The Institute maintains a multi-disciplinary approach, with main emphasis on political science, economics, and international law.

Fridtjof Nansen Institute
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