Civil Society Empowerment and Stakeholder Engagement

Civil Society Empowerment and Stakeholder Engagement

Since its foundation, the REC has had a mandate to assist in the development of a strong and sustainable environmental civil society. In fulfilling this mandate, the REC strives to strengthen the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) and improve their knowledge, skills, capacities, infrastructure and viability.

As a strategic partner for the implementation of the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention), we provide legislative, policy and institutional support to environmental stakeholders, as well as capacity building for the implementation of the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (the PRTR Protocol). 

The REC’s goals are to:

  • provide assessments, recommendations and capacity building for government officials, CSOs and other stakeholders;
  • create enabling conditions for multi-stakeholder dialogue;
  • strengthen participatory approaches and facilitate public/stakeholder consultations
  • promote the practical implementation of the Aarhus Convention, other relevant international agreements, and EU and national legislation; and
  • assist in preparations for the ratification of the PRTR Protocol and help to build the relevant capacities of officials, operators and CSOs.

Key activities in this area of expertise include:

  • supporting CSOs through grants, capacity building, networking and a CSO viability programme;
  • training civil society leaders and strengthening cooperation among CSOs, as well as between authorities and civil society, in order to enhance the influence of CSOs in decision-making processes;
  • supporting parties to the Aarhus Convention to achieve more effective implementation in areas identified as major gaps or difficulties in South Eastern Europe (SEE);
  • developing and implementing capacity-building programmes for officials and CSOs at local and regional level in SEE to help integrate public participation into decision making in the areas of environmental impact assessment (EIA) and strategic environmental assessment (SEA);
  • raising awareness and building the capacities of judges, prosecutors, ministry officials and CSOs regarding the implementation of the access to justice pillar of the Aarhus Convention, related EU directives and national legislation, and encouraging dialogue on eliminating barriers to access to justice in SEE;
  • supporting parties to the Aarhus Convention in more effective implementation in areas identified as major gaps or difficulties;
  • assisting environmental agencies to set up and operate PRTR systems in line with the requirements of the PRTR Protocol and the EU E-PRTR;
  • supporting preparations for the ratification of the PRTR Protocol and raising awareness and understanding among operators and CSOs regarding their role and responsibilities;
  • integrating public participation requirements in fields such as water management and the implementation of the Water Framework Directive; nuclear and other energy issues; climate change; local environmental action plans (LEAPs); sustainable consumption and production; Natura 2000; and waste management;
  • facilitating experience sharing among EU member states, SEE, and the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA); and
  • identifying best practices in participatory governance and public participation and integrating them into the water, waste, energy, transport, nature protection, climate change, and sustainable consumption and production sectors.