United Nations Economic Commission for Europe to Conduct Performance Review Assessment in Armenia after 22 Years

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe to Conduct Performance Review Assessment in Armenia after 22 Years

After 22 years the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will conduct an environmental performance review in Armenia for the second time. To this end, the UNECE International Expert Team is meeting in Yerevan with civil society, government officials, national experts, academics and business representatives.

In 2019, the Armenian government applied to UNECE for the second time to conduct an environmental performance review. The first review was conducted in 1999 and published in 2000.

UNECE EPRs offer a comprehensive tool to help countries identify key environmental challenges and establish concrete recommendations to improve environmental sustainability across all sectors. 

The second review of Armenia will assess developments over the past decade on air quality, water management, biodiversity and protected areas, soil conservation, waste and chemicals management and greening the economy. It will also examine the country’s environmental data, information and observation systems, the extent to which international environmental agreements and commitments are implemented, and activities regarding climate change. Public access to environmental information, participation in environmental decision-making and access to justice on environmental matters will be reviewed, as will the integration of education for sustainable development into the education system’s curriculum, institutions and society. The review will also look at the country’s environmental legal, policy and institutional framework and regulatory and compliance assurance mechanisms. Further, the integration of environmental considerations into industry, energy, transport and agriculture, as well as issues related to environment and health, will be reviewed.  

In addition, this second review will assess the country’s progress towards relevant targets and indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The review team will examine how the SDGs are being adapted to the national context and how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is put into practice, whether the necessary resources have been allocated and responsibilities are clear, what obstacles have been encountered when targeting the Goals and what concrete results have already been achieved. 

The following UNECE experts and advisors took part in the meeting held with the representatives of the civil society: Nick Bonvoisin, Vadim Ni, Saraly Andrade De Sa,  Janyl Moldalieva, Marianna Bolshakova,  Angela Sochirca, Virginia Fusé,  Teodora Obradovikj-Grncharovska, Olivera Kujundzic, Anabela Rebelo,  Andras Guti,  Zbigniew Niewiadomski, Pandi Zdruli,  Sylvie Eymard,  Dafina Dalbokova,  Hervé Lethier,  Viktor Badaker,  Karin Fuéri, and Nikola Sahovic. 

From the Armenian side, the meeting was attended by Inga Zarafyan - President of "EcoLur" Informational NGO, Monika Yeritsyan - representative of "EcoLur" NGO, Silva Adamyan - President of "Ecological Public Union" NGO, Liana Asoyan - President of "Blejan" NGO, Ruzanna Ghazaryan - President of Sona-Dalma Foundation, National Coordinator of the Aarhus Convention and President of Public Awareness and Monitoring Center NGO Marie Chakryan, Silva Ayvazyan - Head of Yerevan Aarhus Center, Artashes Sargsyan - President of Ecoteam NGO, Yeghvard Youth Environmental NGO representatives Sirarpi Manyan and Ruzanna Manyan.

Addressing the representatives of the Armenian civil society, the UNECE experts mentioned that the target of the review to be carried out is the government. "Your opinions are extremely important, because any government alone cannot succeed, we need the support of the public sector."

Inga Zarafyan, President of EcoLur Informational NGO, covered the main environmental challenges. She noted that the Armenian civil society actively works with various initiatives, local residents, who are highly active in the protection of their rights.

Nowadays, the Armenian Government proposes to supplement the Code with a new Article 55.1, which provides for the extension of the soil management right on the basis of insurmountable force. Among a number of causes: fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, or other natural disasters, such as explosions, war, terrorism, civil war, civil disobedience will be considered an insurmountable force, together with various manifestations of protests, as a result of which it was not possible to organize soil management at the mine.

Around 60 Armenian NGOs addressed a letter to the international organizations, the ambassadors of the USA and the European Union member states accredited in Armenia, calling to support and act as a mediator in the decision of e RA Government dated on 10.02.2022 to withdraw the draft law "On Making Amendments to RA Subsoil Code" approved at the meeting.

“We have a new situation when the business is changing its activities. For example, Teghout CJSC, which has Russian capital, has ceased its operations. During our review, we need to understand what to do in this new situation.

Locals affected by the mining industry have become more active in defending their "green" rights, which are closely linked to social issues. Since 2018, residents of a number of settlements in Tumanyan area, Lori Region, have been actively working with local NGOs to protect their rights.

Based on research conducted by Czech “Arnika” NGO, which has proven high levels of harmful pollution in mining areas, about 70 residents have filed a lawsuit to defend their rights. It is possible that people can succeed when they stand up for their rights, and we support them in that process.

In 2019, EcoLur held environmental public trials, when the activities of a number of businesses were recognized as environmental crimes. We have compiled a large body of evidence related to environmental violations in various areas.

Public monitoring conducted in 25 communities affected by the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant showed that there is a problem with radiation safety in those communities. The solution to these problems lies with the communities, which do not have the appropriate resources, whereas the state and ANPP are not financially responsible, which is a violation of the rights of the local population.

Our water resources are endangered. The reasons are unsustainable water use and pollution of water resources. Pollution of our rivers has reached the 5th - most dangerous class. We do not have treatment plants. There is a law to protect the ecosystem of Lake Sevan, but that law is constantly violated resulting in the waterlogging of the lake.

 Our other strategic water resource is the groundwater of the Ararat artesian basin. The annual allowable volume of this resource is 1.1 billion cubic meters, but the real water consumption reaches 1.6-1.7 billion cubic meters. There is a violation of the balance of the water basin, the largest water user is the fish farming business. The ANPP, which was supposed to operate with a constant flow of water resources, is supplied with water from deep wells, which is an unstable source. The condition of our irrigation system is so bad. Every year the issue of repairing it and reducing water losses is raised, but nothing is done," Inga Zarafyan highlighted.

During the meeting, UNECE experts promised that when the package of proposals is drafted, it will also include proposals filed by the civil society.

March 18, 2022 at 14:00

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