Armenian seminar on its implementation of international environmental treaties
Karen Jenderedjian, STRP member and Ramsars focal point in Armenia, forwards news of a successful seminar organized in cooperation between Armenian authorities and organizations and the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) on 25-29 September 2006. He notes that it was the first seminar in Armenia ever to systematically address the country's implementation of international environmental treaties.
Since Armenia's independence in 1991, the republic has signed and ratified a number of international environmental treaties, yet the obstacles in the implementation process are substantial. As Armenia is struggling to recover from the economic crisis following independence, the authorities' priority is given to economic growth. "In an under-funded bureaucracy where basic tools such as PCs and internet access may be lacking, particularly at the regional and local level it is understandable that it may be difficult for the civil servants to focus on international environmental obligations," says FNI Director Peter Johan Schei, former Ramsar Standing Committee member and one of the speakers at the seminar.
"In spite of this, I think Armenia is being more serious than many other nations about their international environmental obligations. Policies and laws are fairly well developed, and more detailed regulations and concrete actions are under way, but implementation on the ground is still very weak. Also horizontal cooperation and economic sector integration of environmental concerns are poorly developed. This seminar may have been a minor event in the ongoing implementation process, but from the responses given by participants, an important one bringing people from various sectors and administrative levels together for developing common understanding of the challenges ahead. I believe it has also contributed to increasing the awareness among civil servants and NGO representatives of the obligations that derive from Armenia's ratification of international environmental treaties," Schei says.
At the seminar, representatives of Armenian authorities presented the status quo for the implementation in Armenia of key treaties such as Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Århus Convention, and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Furthermore, NGO representatives discussed the role of Armenian environmental NGOs, while FNI researchers presented the international background and situation for international environmental treaties, and research results on the conditions for their successful implementation.
Several Armenian representatives expressed a strong wish to continue addressing systematically the problems and progress of implementation of international obligations, for instance through similar annual seminars. A challenge for future meetings would be to expand further civil service participation beyond the Armenian Ministry of Nature Protection
Approximately 40 representatives from the civil service, environmental NGOs and the scientific sector participated. Full details on the seminar can be found at: http://www.fni.no, from which this report was largely taken, and http://www.fni.no/armeniaseminar.html.
Also during the FNI seminar, the participants made an excursion around lake Sevan, Armenias largest Ramsar site (489,100 hectares, covering roughly 16% of the national territory).
-- Photos of Lake Sevan, 2003: Tobias Salathé