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Georgia

Adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code (GE0057)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Georgia National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia

Support Institution(s): Financial support – EU, program“Greening Economies in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Countries“ - EaP GREEN; program implementator UN Economic Commission for Europe–UNECE

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, E-Government, Environment and Climate, Extractive Industries, Land & Spatial Planning, Legislation & Regulation, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: Georgia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: Yes Starred

Early Results: Marginal Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code; This commitment implies adoption of the environmental assessment code that will envisage the requirements of the convention “on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters” (hereafter, Aarhus Convention) in the environmental protection issues and will ensure public participation in the decision-making process in relation with effects on the environment, particularly: • to bring potential negative impact of high risk activities on the condition of the natural environment, as well as on human life and health under the environment assessment regulation, in compliance with the requrements of EU directive 2011/92/EC “on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on environment”; • Public participation in the elaboration and adoption process of bylaws (strategic douments) regulating activities that might have potential impact on natural environment and human life and health as well, dissemination of the information through printing media and electronically at the initial stage of the elaboration of strategic documents, involvement of public and scientific opinion in the process of public discussions conducted for the purposes of elaboration above mentioned documents; • Environmental decision-making, public engagement at the initial stage according to the principles of public administrative proceedings. Publication of information on on the place of planned activities, as well as electronically and through printing media, conducting public discussions on the place of planned activity, consideration of proposals and oppinions during the decision-making process. Date ofImplementation: 2016-2017; Issues to be Addressed: The practice has proven that existing regulations have significant shortcomings. With regard to the environmental impact assessment, numerous activities presenting the risk of having harmful effect on the environment remain beyond the scope of regulation that increases the degree of negative impact and the risks of such impact on the environment and human health. The procedures related to the environmental impact assessment and issuance of the relevant permits do not envisage public participation, as the publicity burden lies on the permit seeker, and the decisions are made by simple administrative procedure. There is no efficient mechanism to conduct spatial, economic and other state planning process in various sectors with consideration of environmental and human health protection aspects, so that while developing certain plan/program environmental and human health protection matters should be taken into account at a maximum early stage, and wide society and scientific population should be involved in the processes. Main Objective: Bring the activities having significant impact on the environment under the regulation, reduce the risks of negative impact on the environment; Define anticipated environmental protection risks at the initial stage of activity planning, reduce investor’s costs and financial risks; Take into account environmental protection interests while making spatial and economic planning (strategy planning) of the country; Inform and involve society at the initial stage/ throughout the process of the activity planning, ensure participation of scientific commuity and wide public in the process that will increase citizens’ trust in compliance with the requirements of Aarhus Convention.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

16. Adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code

Commitment Text:

This commitment implies adoption of the environmental assessment code that will envisage the requirements of the convention 'on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters' (hereafter, Aarhus Convention) in the environmental protection issues and will ensure public participation in the decision-making process in relation with effects on the environment, particularly:

  • to bring potential negative impact of high risk activities on the condition of the natural environment, as well as on human life and health under the environment assessment regulation, in compliance with the requirements of EU directive 2011/92/EC 'on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on environment';
  • ·Public participation in the elaboration and adoption process of bylaws (strategic documents) regulating activities that might have potential impact on natural environment and human life and health as well, dissemination of the information through printing media and electronically at the initial stage of the elaboration of strategic documents, involvement of public and scientific opinion in the process of public discussions conducted for the purposes of elaboration above mentioned documents;
  • Environmental decision-making, public engagement at the initial stage according to the principles of public administrative proceedings. Publication of information on the place of planned activities, as well as electronically and through printing media, conducting public discussions on the place of planned activity, consideration of proposals and opinions during the decision-making process.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia

Supporting institution(s): Financial support – EU, program 'Greening Economies in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) Countries' – EaP GREEN; program implementer UN Economic Commission for Europe–UNECE

Start date: Not provided

End date: August 2017

Editorial note: This commitment is clearly relevant to OGP values as written, has transformative potential impact, and is substantially or completely implemented and therefore qualifies as a starred commitment.

Context and Objectives

From 1997 to 2005, environmental legislation called for civic participation in the process of project approvals and offered a comprehensive procedure for assessing the negative impact of a project, which was closer to the European Union (EU) standards.[1] According to the representative of the local environmental CSO Green Alternative, the process was abolished in the mid-2000s, depriving civil society of any opportunity to engage in decision-making on specific projects.[2] The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia (MENRP) took a commitment to adopt the environmental assessment code with the objective of bringing activities having a potential effect on the environment under the Ministry’s regulation, assessing activities against environmental protection interests, and informing and engaging citizens in the decision-making process during approval permits for the projects.[3]

The commitment identified specific activities including: 1) the adoption of the environmental assessment code, 2) staffing and training of a specific structural unit with the main function of adjusting the MENRP’s work to the new regulations, 3) informing other administrative bodies who are involved in authorization regarding the new code, and 4) training members of academia and other stakeholders in preparation of environmental impact assessment in accordance with the new regulations.[4] The commitment is coded as having a transformative effect if fully implemented as the new legislation has the potential to open up the platform for civic participation in the decision-making process.[5] Considering the intended results of the Environmental Assessment Code, including an obligation to inform the public regarding project proposals, seeking input from the public regarding negative impact on the environment, as well as an obligation to consider feedback from citizens,[6] the commitment is coded as having relevance to two OGP principles, namely, increasing access to information, and promoting civic participation.

Completion

The Environmental Assessment Code was adopted at the beginning of 2017. Chapter IV of the Code includes Articles defining the public’s right to participate in decision-making under the given law, and states the Ministry’s obligation to promote civic engagement in the process. Article 32 of the Code defines MENRP’s commitment to inform civil society regarding project proposals via different channels, including the webpage of the Ministry, newspapers, and the building of the Municipal body in the region where the project is to be implemented. Article 34 of the code states various means for acquiring public feedback including written, electronic, or during public discussions, whereas Article 35 obliges the decision-making body to consider citizen input, as well as to provide feedback on whether the proposed suggestions were incorporated in the decision.[7]

CSOs assess the drafting process of the Environmental Assessment Code as unsatisfactory. While there were several discussions where representatives of the civil sector were invited, participants did not always receive feedback on their input. For example, a Policy Analyst at Green Alternative submitted 60 pages of comments, with no response from the Ministry on whether they were incorporated in the draft.[8]

Since the OGP point of contact at the MENRP is no longer performing this duty, and the Ministry was not responsive during the research process, the IRM researchers have no information regarding other deliverables pertaining to internal staffing and training of the responsible unit.[9]

Early Results

While representatives of CSOs working in the environmental sector indicate two specific loopholes in the document, they strongly commend the new legislation for opening up the platform for civic participation in the decision-making process.[10] Stakeholders assess the code positively, but they refer to several shortcomings in the legislation. According to Green Alternative, when it comes to licensing projects on mining, the National Environment Agency gives out permits prior to the assessment. Therefore, in case of all projects pertaining to mining, regardless of the opinions voiced during public discussions, the license is already obtained.[11] While the licensees cannot start their activity without the decision of the environmental assessment, CSOs believe that giving out permits prior to the assessment is illogical, and leaves room for the risk of attempting to influence the environmental assessment process on behalf of the interested parties.[12]

Another similar loophole indicated by Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN) is that the law does not cover certain permits for activities in forestry. The argument behind the decision to exclude such activities was that they would be regulated by the Forest Code of Georgia. However, there have been cases when the decision of the Ministry violated the Forest Code of Georgia in favor of complying with the permissions regulation, during which the Aarhus Secretariat ruled the decision to be acceptable, as it ensured protection of one of the laws. Such a loophole is dangerous as it sets the precedent of violating one law in favor of another, which creates a risk that certain regulations in the Forest Code could be further neglected.[13]

Considering that the Environmental Assessment Code is recently adopted, it is too early to assess whether the public engagement process has been fruitful in preventing a negative impact on the environment.

Next Steps

The commitment is a significant step towards opening the environmental impact assessment process to the public, increasing access to information regarding new project proposals, and allowing representatives of academia and other interested stakeholders to engage in the process with a higher objective of preventing initiatives harmful to the environment. To complete this commitment, the Ministry needs to implement the remaining activities, namely, conducting all necessary adjustments to the new law until the end of the current action plan.

In addition, while the Environmental Assessment Code itself ensures that no harmful activity can begin even if a company already obtained operation permit/license without the decision of the environmental assessment (such as in the case of mining permits), it is recommended that the procedure is made more coherent. This could be done by preventing giving out permits and licenses without obtaining environmental assessment decision first, which would further eliminate any risks of bias during the assessment procedure.


[1] Liberali.ge, Dato Parulava, 16 March 2017, 'How Will the ‘Environmental Assessment Code’ Protect the Environment?', https://goo.gl/eGAmrV.

[2] Keti Gujaraidze, Policy Analyst, Green Alternative, interview with IRM researcher, 9 August 2017.

[3] Georgia National Action Plan 2016-2018, http://bit.ly/2t2eFxU.

[4] Georgia National Action Plan 2016-2018, http://bit.ly/2t2eFxU.

[5] Rezo Getiashvili – Environmental Projects Coordinator, Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN), interview with IRM researcher, 11 August 2017.

[6] Law of Georgia on 'Environmental Assessment Code', adopted on 1 June 2017, https://matsne.gov.ge/ka/document/view/3691981.

[7] Chapter IV, Articles 30-36, Law of Georgia on 'Environmental Assessment Code', adopted on 1 June 2017, https://matsne.gov.ge/ka/document/view/3691981.

[8] Gujaraidze, interview, August 2017

[9] Email correspondence with the Ministry dating 18 August 2017, 16 September 2017 – no response; phone call 15 August 2017 – no response.

[10] Rezo Getiashvili – Environmental Projects Coordinator, Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN), interview with IRM researcher, 11 August 2017.

[11] Gujaraidze, interview, August 2017.

[12] Keti Gujaraidze, Policy Analyst, Green Alternative, phone interview with IRM researcher, 21 January 2018.

[13] Getiasvhili, interview, August 2017.


Georgia's Commitments

  1. improved public services

    GE0066, 2018, Capacity Building

  2. citizen engagement platform

    GE0067, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. unified authentication system

    GE0068, 2018, E-Government

  4. economic governance

    GE0069, 2018, E-Government

  5. environment portal

    GE0070, 2018, E-Government

  6. strengthen anti-corruption institutions

    GE0071, 2018, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  7. Monitor SDGs

    GE0072, 2018, Capacity Building

  8. citizen engagement legislation

    GE0073, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  9. publish court decisions

    GE0074, 2018, E-Government

  10. Increasing transparency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs

    GE0075, 2018, E-Government

  11. citizen participation in public finance

    GE0076, 2018, Audits and Controls

  12. transparent public funding system

    GE0077, 2018, Fiscal Transparency

  13. public procurement improvements

    GE0078, 2018, E-Government

  14. housing policy planning

    GE0079, 2018, Land & Spatial Planning

  15. Openness and accountability of state-owned enterprises

    GE0080, 2018, E-Government

  16. transparency and good governance

    GE0081, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  17. open data collection and publication

    GE0082, 2018, E-Government

  18. participation for disabled individuals

    GE0083, 2018, Infrastructure & Transport

  19. Participatory budgeting

    GE0084, 2018, Capacity Building

  20. Your idea for the Zugdidi Mayor

    GE0085, 2018, Capacity Building

  21. electronic services

    GE0086, 2018, E-Government

  22. I. Gov. Zugdidi

    GE0087, 2018, Capacity Building

  23. service and citizen satisfaction assessment

    GE0088, 2018, Capacity Building

  24. Promoting and Monitoring SDGs

    GE0089, 2018, Legislature

  25. Citizen involvement in budget

    GE0090, 2018, E-Government

  26. Technology for Transparency

    GE0091, 2018, E-Government

  27. Citizen Engagement Center

    GE0092, 2018, Capacity Building

  28. Raising Public Awareness about Parliamentary Democracy

    GE0093, 2018, E-Government

  29. Electronic innovations for more transparency and efficiency of Public Procurement

    GE0056, 2016, Capacity Building

  30. Starred commitment Adoption of the Environmental Assessment Code

    GE0057, 2016, Capacity Building

  31. Introduction of a mobile app as an alternative channel to connect to “112”

    GE0058, 2016, E-Government

  32. Development of local councils for crime prevention

    GE0059, 2016, Public Service Delivery

  33. Development of a Guidebook for Economic Agents

    GE0060, 2016, Capacity Building

  34. Development and introduction of the quality control program of commercial service

    GE0061, 2016, Capacity Building

  35. Presentation of company reports in an electronic form and provision of their accessibility

    GE0062, 2016, Capacity Building

  36. Introduction of an electronic petition portal and “Zugdidi-INFO” on the webpage of Zugdidi Municipality Assembly

    GE0063, 2016, Capacity Building

  37. Transparency of Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly meetings

    GE0064, 2016, Capacity Building

  38. Creation of Electronic Mechanism for Local Budget Planning in Kutaisi, Ozurgeti, Batumi and Akhaltsikhe

    GE0065, 2016, E-Government

  39. Adapting the Public Service Hall to the needs of the people with disabilities

    GE0042, 2016, Capacity Building

  40. Launch of the unified healthcare system information portal

    GE0043, 2016, Capacity Building

  41. Introduction of electronic licensing system in the field of natural resources application

    GE0044, 2016, Capacity Building

  42. Creation of spatial (Geographic) data web-portal for the energy sector

    GE0045, 2016, Capacity Building

  43. Creation of innovation ecosystem

    GE0046, 2016, Capacity Building

  44. Electronic portal for registering and disposal of State Property – Customer’s Module

    GE0047, 2016, E-Government

  45. Development of the Freedom of Information Law

    GE0048, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  46. Development of a monitoring and assessment system of the Government policy and legislative acts

    GE0049, 2016, Capacity Building

  47. Starred commitment Introduction of the public officials’ asset declarations monitoring system

    GE0050, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  48. Establishing unified regulations to publish court decisions

    GE0051, 2016, Judiciary

  49. Development of transparency and integrity strategy and action plan in the field of regional development and infrastructure

    GE0052, 2016, Capacity Building

  50. Improvement of the database of the convicted and transfer of the penitentiary department entirely onto the electronic workflow management

    GE0053, 2016, Capacity Building

  51. Publication of phone tapping data according to the nature of the crime and geographic area

    GE0054, 2016, E-Government

  52. Starred commitment Increasing citizen participation in supervision of public finances (Public Audit)

    GE0055, 2016, Capacity Building

  53. "Voice of the Consumer"

    GE0013, 2014, Public Participation

  54. JUSTdrive

    GE0014, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  55. Educational services

    GE0015, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  56. Citizen's Portal (www.mygov.ge)

    GE0016, 2014, Capacity Building

  57. Transformation of public libraries for regional development

    GE0017, 2014, Capacity Building

  58. Digital signature and online authentication

    GE0018, 2014, E-Government

  59. Open data portal (data.gov.ge)

    GE0019, 2014, E-Government

  60. Freedom of information act (FoIA) draft

    GE0020, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  61. Georgia's OGP forum

    GE0021, 2014, OGP

  62. I-Change.ge

    GE0022, 2014, E-Government

  63. Transparency of public service recruitment

    GE0023, 2014, E-Government

  64. Asset declaration monitoring system

    GE0024, 2014, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  65. Starred commitment Political party financial declarations

    GE0025, 2014, E-Government

  66. Accessibility of Ministry of Interior's webpage to people with special needs

    GE0026, 2014, E-Government

  67. Starred commitment Proactive publishing of surveillance data

    GE0027, 2014, Civic Space

  68. Public awareness of the electoral process

    GE0028, 2014, Capacity Building

  69. Transparency of budgetary processes

    GE0029, 2014, E-Government

  70. Electronic system of procurement

    GE0030, 2014, E-Government

  71. Digital human resource management system

    GE0031, 2014, E-Government

  72. Digital preservation system: E-archive

    GE0032, 2014, E-Government

  73. Openness and accessibility of national archives

    GE0033, 2014, E-Government

  74. Electronic catalogues of Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) archives

    GE0034, 2014, E-Government

  75. Public finance management system

    GE0035, 2014, E-Government

  76. Alternative channels to "112"

    GE0036, 2014, E-Government

  77. Interactive statistics and crime mapping

    GE0037, 2014, E-Government

  78. Travel insurance services

    GE0038, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration

  79. State property registration

    GE0039, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  80. Development of community centers in Georgia

    GE0040, 2014, E-Government

  81. Introduction of e-governance in local self-governments

    GE0041, 2014, E-Government

  82. Public Service Hall-Hub of Public Services

    GE0001, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration

  83. E-Governance in Local Governments

    GE0002, 2012, E-Government

  84. Citizens’ Portal

    GE0003, 2012, E-Government

  85. Easily Accessible and Better Healthcare

    GE0004, 2012, E-Government

  86. Launch Ichange.ge and Data.gov.ge

    GE0005, 2012, E-Government

  87. Platform for Participating in the Legislative Process

    GE0006, 2012, E-Government

  88. Citizens and Justice

    GE0007, 2012, Judiciary

  89. Starred commitment Transparent Party Financing

    GE0008, 2012,

  90. Home-grown concept of E-procurement

    GE0009, 2012, E-Government

  91. E-declarations

    GE0010, 2012, Asset Disclosure

  92. Technology Cares for Safety: ICCMS, Crime Mapping, and Safety in Your Neighbourhood

    GE0011, 2012, E-Government

  93. NGO Forum

    GE0012, 2012, Capacity Building