My first impression travelling from Berlin's hippest street to Moldova's capital Chisinau with its crumbling sowjet-area buildings are two worlds apart.
This appeared to be even more the case when the preparation meetings to the Aarhus Convention MOP4 started - but suddenly it was the other way round.
The day started with a meeting of the Compliance Comittee - the body that decides whether Parties breaches the conditions, either in general or specific cases.
Coming from the negotiations of the CBD and its Protocols I'm used to Industry and some Parties arguing that Compliance should be only ever be assessed based on some legally non-biding guidelines, without consequences and of course behind closed doors. This meeting was different and from what I can see one of the best examples of implementing Principle 10 of the Rio Convention.
Most of the sessions of the Compliance Committee are open, this includes the hearing of different cases - or communications as they are called in the Aarhus Convention. Only their actual deliberations are closed. And of course unlike in other systems it is not only states who can bring cases forward: It can - and as far as I have seen - it often are NGOs who bring cases forward.
There wasn't an actual hearing today, but one country was there to plead their case before the report about their non-compliance will be presented to the Parties in the next days. After they did that is was apparently totally normal to ask the NGO who had triggered the case to comment straight away. And for the election of the four new members of the Compliance Committee two of the seven candidates are proposed by ECO Forum, the NGO network in the Aarhus Convention. While I'm writing this, a member of the ECO Forum are negotiation in a Contact Group about which candidates to put forward.
This openness and inclusiveness continued during the first session of the Working Group of the Parties. NGOs got the floor repeatedly where they argued about the wording of several texts - a far cry from the CBD meetings where NGOs are usually the last group to get the floor at the very end of an agenda item when everything is already decided. So far I had been glad that at least during the CBD negotiations we as NGOs are allowed into the sessions, can talk to the delegates and sometimes can make a statement - at least compared to for example climate negotiations where NGOs find themselves outside closed door or other meetings where even just to acquire the status of a mute observer you have to go through lengthy registrations procedures. I'm curious to see how this will develop further during the actual MOP - and whether we will ever to be able to reach this level of participation at CBD negotiations.