Our special envoy’s busy program

Summer Kern, Senior Lawyer of J&E served in her personal capacity as the senior expert for an event organized in Athens, Greece, from 14-15 November 2023 by the Water and Environment Support Project, undertaken with the support of numerous bodies, including the UNECE Aarhus Convention Secretariat, to train high-level goverrnmental representatives in the Mediterranean Region regarding their countries’ possible accession to the Aarhus Convention.

In addition to covering the Convention’s three pillars: Access to Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice, Summer focused on public participation in international fora.  The training was extremely well-received by the participating countries, and represents a truly exciting possible expansion of the Aarhus Convention, promoting synergies and regional cooperation and stability amongst neighboring countries, which would also support the implementation of the Barcelona Convention, to which these countries are already Parties.

Summer Kern also led the training in her personal capacity at the Fourth Joint Aarhus Convention and Convention on Biological Diversity Roundtable on Public Awareness, Education, Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice regarding Living Modified Organisms/Genetically Modified Organisms, which took place from 11-12 December 2023. Her training focused on access to justice in this area, specifically as regards challenges when access to information is refused wholly or in part; challenges of permits issued; challenges of plans, programs, and policies; and challenges which may contravene national laws to the environment. In addition she touched upon both the challenges and opportunities in cases involving cases brought by foreign NGOs, and what support the Convention can provide when those seeking to challenge LMOs/GMOs face penalization, persecution, or harassment for attempting to exercise their rights to a healthy environment, and for those of future generations.

The opportunity for synergies between the two Conventions, the Aarhus Convention and the CBD, were exciting to all in the room, as the awareness of the need to pursue a science-driven policy, one respecting the unique potential for unwanted transboundary contamination of GMO/LMO crops, and their at times intransaprent and misleading introduction into our food system. While the critical need for sensible policy in the area was particularly evident from our CBD Parties from the Americas, the recent EU efforts concernning GMO/LMOs only serve to make clear that we are ultimately living on the same planet, and have to work out common solutions.