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Policy Activities

WECF advocates for human rights and gender criteria to be included in international, national and local policy processes.

WECF believes that equal opportunities and leadership of women and other groups less well represented in policy making processes are essential for achieving equitable and balanced (and thus truly ‘sustainable’) development. WECF aims at greater public participation in environmental policy making, leading to better policies which have a broader support base amongst the population.

WECF implements 2 programmes:

  1. Gender: Increased participation of women in sustainable development
  2. Rights: Increased access to justice and environmental rights

1. Gender

Increased participation of women in sustainable development

WECF was conceived at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where Agenda-21 was agreed to as a roadmap towards sustainable development. Agenda-21 identifies 9 “major groups” (farmers, science, trade unioons, business, local authorities, women, environmental NGOs, youth and indigeneous people), who should be involved in policy making for sustainable development, including the major group women. WECF was created to take on the challenge of working with women from local to global level, to implement Agenda-21 and assure sustainable development is inclusive and recognizes the specific views, concerns and leadership of women.

WECF therefore represents the women's major group in a number of international policy processes.

International policy processes

  • Climate Convention UNFCCC: WECF is one of the 6 members of the women and gender constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In that role, WECF represents women in global climate negotiations, and facilitates their participation and contributions.
  • United Nations Environment Programme UNEP: WECF has been representing the women’s major group of the United Nations Environment Programme for the period 2008-2010. WECF is also a member of the Network of Women Environmental Ministers and Leaders, which is coordinated through UNEP.
  • Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference 2012: WECF is one of the organisers of the women's major group involvement in the preparations for the upcoming Rio+20 conference in 2012.
  • UN-CSD Commission for Sustainable Development: WECF together with Bahai International and Voices of African Mothers (VAM) is coordinating the women’s major group for the 18th and 19th cycle of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development, which focuses on chemicals, waste and mining.
  • Beijing World Women’s Conference: WECF organised the women's environmental events at the the World Women’s Conference in Beijing, China in 1995. Since then it has contributed to the Beijing+10 and Beijing+15 reports.
    • EWL
  • Millennium Development Goals MDGs: WECF contributes to implementation of the MDGs, in particular MDG1 (poverty elimination), 3 (gender equality) and 7 (environment, water and sanitation) and presents its lessons learned on barriers and catalysts to implementation at international policy conferences.

2. Environmental Rights and Public Participation Policies

European and regional policy processes

WECF is actively involved in the:

International policy processes

WECF contributes to the work of the:

  • Human Rights Council (HRC) – UPR and Special Procedures, such as the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, UNDRIP, ECOSOC
  • Aarhus Convention

In 1998 the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, the so-called Aarhus Convention (list of parties and signatories to the Convention) was adopted. It is the first legally binding instrument guaranteeing access to information, public participation in decision-making and justice in environmental matters.

The Convention is a new kind of environmental agreement linking environmental and human rights. Thus it contains a rights based approach which is represented by a three pillar structure within the Convention:

  • the information pillar (articles 4 and 5)
  • the public participation pillar (articles 6, 7 and 8)
  • the access to justice pillar (article 9).

The governing body of the Aarhus Convention is the Meeting of the Parties. It meets every 2-3 years to review progress in the ratification and implementation of the Convention and to decide on future work programmes. In between the Meetings of the Parties, the Working Group of the Parties oversees the implementation of the work programme. Furthermore, a Compliance Committee has been established to address issues of alleged non-compliance with the Convention.

There also other Working Groups and/or Task Forces which work on specific issues:

  • Working Group on Genetically Modified Organisms;
  • Working Group on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers;
  • Task Force on Electronic Tools;
  • Task Force on Access to Justice;
  • Task Force on Financial Arrangements;
  • Task Force on Public Participation in International Forums.

All these bodies are serviced by the Secretariat of the Aarhus Convention. For the dates of the meetings of the different working groups etc. please see the calendar of meetings.

At the extraordinary meeting of the Parties on 21 May 2003 in Kiev, Ukraine, the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers was adopted. 36 States and the European Community signed the Protocol in Kiev (see here for list of signatories and ratification). The Protocol will enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the sixteenth instrument of ratification by a member State of the United Nations.

The Protocol is the first legally binding international instrument on pollutant release and transfer registers. PRTRs are inventories of pollution from industrial sites and other sources. The aim of the protocol is "to enhance public access to information through the establishment of coherent, nationwide pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs) ...". The protocol is expected to exert a significant downward pressure on levels of pollution, as no company will want to be identified as among the biggest polluters.

WECF actively takes part in observing the Aarhus process by participating in the work of several task forces/working groups and by co-operating with other NGOs on the issues of public participation. E.g. WECF is a member of the Eco-forum which is an open platform facilitating the co-operation of environmental NGOs in the framework of the Environment for Europe Process, of which the Aarhus Convention forms a part.

WECF participated in the second Meeting of the Parties in Almaty from 25 - 27 May 2005 and in the first meeting of the Task Force on Public Participation in International Forums in Geneva from 24 – 25 November 2005. WECF also takes part in the discussions about the implementation of the Aarhus Convention and related EU directives into German law.