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From April 15 to 28, representatives from five U.S. environmental institutions visited China with the help of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) to work closely with their Chinese counterparts on local projects to increase public participation in environmental decision-making in China.
This program, called Citizen Participation, Accountability and Transparency in Environmental Decision-Making in China, is co-sponsored by the Center for Environmental Education and Communication of China’s newly-elevated Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP). “We are trying to provide institutional support for public participation,” stated Bie Tao, Deputy Director-General of MEP’s Policy and Legislation Department.
In the first phase of the program, which took place in summer 2007, ten Chinese environmental officials and advocates came to the U.S. In this second phase, U.S. participants visited China. The U.S. participants were Michelle Perrault from the Sierra Club, Jeff Smoller from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Al Chun representing US EPA Region 9, Ed Wong from the California EPA, and Susan Casey-Lefkowitz from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Following a week of meetings in Beijing with the MEP, national-level environmental NGOs, and leaders of China’s environmental bar, the U.S. participants dispersed to four local sites, each hosted by a different institution: the Shenyang City Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB), the Xi’an City EPB, the Guizhou Provincial EPB, and the Chongqing Green Earth Volunteers League, an environmental NGO. Each site focused on a different facet of public participation.
In Shenyang, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz and Ed Wong provided technical assistance to the Shenyang EPB on implementation of China’s first access to government information regulations. In Xi’an, Al Chun participated in an innovative roundtable dialogue program that is creating new channels of communication between environmental agencies and local communities. Michele Perrault shared environmental advocacy strategies with student activists in Chongqing. And in Guizhou, Jeff Smoller laid the groundwork for long-term cooperation between the Guizhou EPB and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Both Guizhou and Wisconsin have lake systems that require specialized management, and both have minority communities whose engagement is important for effective natural resources management.
“This program was an important opportunity to advance joint learning between the U.S. and China, and together to address common environmental problems,” said Peng Bin, an official with the Guizhou EPB.
The Chinese and U.S. participants kept journals and photos of their experiences. The Chinese journals are available at http://www.chinaeol.net/zmhj/default_en.asp (English translations) and http://www.chinaeol.net/zmhj/xwdt.htm (Chinese). The U.S. participants’ journals will be available by the end of this month at the same web address.