Kyrgyz Center Supports Accountability

ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND CO-OPERATION IN EUROPE

A second center to improve the public’s access to environmental information is planned for the Kyrgyz Republic.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has been supporting the establishment of Aarhus Centres for more than 10 years. The centers have been created to support the implementation of the United Nations Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, also known as the Aarhus Convention. There are currently 43 Aarhus Centres in 13 countries in Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia.

“The new Aarhus Centre in northern Kyrgyzstan will raise awareness about environmental hazards, help mitigate conflicts and tensions over natural resources, and promote a constructive dialogue among those involved in environmental issues,” said Yulia Minaeva, senior economic and environmental officer at the OSCE Centre in Bishkek. “It will also play a central role in helping the public obtain access to environmental information and to justice on environmental issues.”

Jibarkul Bekkulova, chief of the Ecological Strategy and Policy Department of the Kyrgyz Republic’s State Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry, said: “Since the Aarhus Centre in Osh mainly works in southern Kyrgyzstan, there has been a high demand for a new center in Bishkek focusing on activities in the north as well. The center in Bishkek will help the State Agency improve its cooperation with civil society, distribute information and raise awareness on environmental matters. Its work will also include public hearings and discussions on a variety of environmental topics.”

The Aarhus Convention was signed in 1998. It has been ratified by 46 European and Central Asian nations, as well as the European Union. The Kyrgyz Republic ratified the convention in 2001; with support from the OSCE, an Aarhus Centre was established in Osh in 2004. This center specializes in issues such as sustainable mining, biodiversity conservation, compliance with environmental legislation, and the monitoring of uranium tailing sites. It also involves youth in environmental protection, promotes environmental journalism, and strengthens dialogue between government and civil society on environmental issues.