The Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia organised, in cooperation with Umanotera, the Slovenian Foundation for Sustainable Development, a one-day consultation called Environment and Human Rights, which was held on Tuesday 13 November 2007 in The National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia.
The purpose of the consultation was to inform the civil society, involved in the environmental protection, of the possibilities under the applicable law to exercise its rights and participate actively in procedures related to environment and space.
Public participation in making decisions on the environment, better access to information and efficient legal mechanisms for the protection of legitimate interests are improving the quality and implementation of decisions, and raising the public awareness on environmental issues. They give the public the possibility to express its interests, and the administration to take them into account.
In the first part of the consultation, the representatives of the Human Rights Ombudsman, NGOs and relevant bodies presented their mandates and the possibilities of the public to exercise its rights and actively participate in the procedures. The civil society organisations presented some cases which enabled an in-depth consideration of environmental issues. After the presentation, the work continued in the form of workshops, where participants presented their views, opinions and proposals to improve the environmental protection and spatial planning.
All of the panel participants’ contributions were published, in full or summarized, in a thematic issue of a free newsletter, “The Ombudsman: How to Protect Your Rights”.
This free newsletter is only in slovene but the printed version is also available at the following address: Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia, Dunajska 56, 1109 Ljubljana, or natasa.kuzmic(at)varuh-rs.si.
After the introductory presentation, the work continued in the form of workshops in which participants explained their views, opinions, and proposals for improving the situation in environmental protection and physical planning.
Conclusions and initiatives arising from this panel discussion:
- Municipalities where an activity impacting the environment has been or will be carried out shall be considered parties to the procedure for issuing environmental protection approval.
- An instrument for financing independent studies that are parallel to the environmental report shall be introduced as a basis for assessing plans or interventions.
- The Information Commissioner shall also be responsible for accessing environmental information from the private sector.
- Liable entities shall now be required to submit reports on periodic measurements to the Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia, thereby ensuring the public character of these measurements. It is not evident from annual reports on emissions whether individual liable entities’ emissions comply with the statutory prescribed limits or not.
- Unannounced measurements shall be carried out at public expense (the implementing institution shall be independent from the contracting authority; the time of measurements is important).
- Companies shall be invited to publish all results of monitoring air, water, and noise emissions (a concrete act of social responsibility).
- The inspectorate shall be independent from the executive branch of power (perhaps by using the British model: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Pollution).
- An independent institute specializing in environmental law shall be established to provide assistance and support to civil society.
- Procedures and legislation shall be simplified and made understandable to the general public.
- When passing new legislation, proposals by experts and other interested stakeholders shall be considered to a greater extent even when this would prolong the decision-making process.
- Conditions shall be eased for acquiring the status of a nongovernmental organization operating in the public interest in environmental protection in the Republic of Slovenia.
- Upon amendment of the Environmental Protection Act, the term of office of members of the Environmental Protection Council shall be shortened to four years.
It was possible to submit additional opinions, views, and proposals, as well as arguments (pros and cons) for improving the environmental situation from 19 to 26 November 2007, through this Internet link www.varuh-rs.si or through www.umanotera.org.
Initiatives submitted to the relevant authorities on the basis of the conclusions of the discussion panel “The Environment and Human Rights”, as well as on the basis of any other additionally received proposals, will be published on the web pages of the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia and Umanotera.