Environmental organizations outraged over attempts to hijack public participation
A number of environmental organizations have signed an open statement regarding threats to civic society in Ukraine. They point out that the environmental situation is at crisis level, with water sources contaminated, over 35 billion tonnes of wastes accumulated, over 18 % of the country’s territory suffering from erosion. Since independence the amount of natural reserve land has doubled, yet remains only 4.95% of Ukraine’s territory which is considerably lower than the average for Europe of 15%.
The authors point out that given the number of urgent issues, decisive measures are needed from the government, politicians and the public. The future President should understand his or her responsibility for the environmental state of the country’s territory, yet environmental issues were scarcely present in the pre-election programmes of any of the candidates, and is not in those of the two leading candidates at all. There is also no mention of civic society and its role in forming and implementing State policy, including on environmental issues.
Yet in independent Ukraine, with its political instability and inability of the authorities to effectively manage protection of the environment and natural resources, it has been civic environmental organizations which have played a significant role in resolving environmental problems. They have been involved in drawing up and adopting normative legal acts, the Concept Framework on Environmental Policy and other strategic documents, protecting and creating nature reserves, etc, stopping environmentally dangerous activities, environmental education and awareness-raising, reducing infringements of environmental legislation and much more.
One of the most important aspects of our organizations’ activations has been implementing the principles of environmental democracy via compliance with the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (ratified in 1999). It was on the basis of provisions of the Aarhus Convention that the Cabinet of Ministers [CMU] Resolution No. 1378 from 15 October 2004 (“Some issues on ensuring public participation in formation and implementation of State policy”) was prepared and passed, after wide public discussion.
“Yet the cancellation of this Resolution No. 1378, and its replacement without public participation by two CMU Resolutions: No. 1302 from 26 November 2009 “On additional measures for ensuring public participation in formation and implementation of State policy” and No. 10 from 6 January 2010 “On approving Rules of Procedure for involving the public in formation and implementation of State policy” have restricted the right to self-organization of civic organizations and created conditions for their manipulation through the new procedures. For example, Resolution No. 1302 was approved on 26 November 2009. The Association of Fishermen of Ukraine was registered on 30 December 2009, yet already on 29 January 2010 this newly created organization, whose environmental activities remain a mystery to the public, is planning to create a National Civic Environmental Council. The requirement of mandatory registration of participations, the quota of 5-10 people per organization, the location in the centre of the capital, the aggressive rhetoric of the leader of the fishermen, unwarranted expropriating of a broad spectrum of environmental issues outside their competence, all force us to the conclusion that the event is a commissioned form of manipulation.
We must express our deep concern over attempts by certain political structures and pseudo-civic organizations created by them to substitute efficient independent institutions of civic society with imitations.
In view of the above, we demand the immediate cancellation of CMU Resolutions No. 1302 and No. 10 as creating conditions for falsifying the activities of organizations of civic society.
The appeal is signed by
The All-Ukrainian Environmental League
The National Ecological Centre of Ukraine
“Zeleny Svit” [“Green World”]
the Ukrainian section of “Ecology of Man”
and “Environmental Initiatives”