New Orleans, 12 July 2012—The Council of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), at its annual session on July 11, delivered on its commitment to strengthen the implementation of the public Submission on Enforcement Matters (SEM) process by adopting a number of improvements, including substantial revisions to the Guidelines for Submissions on Enforcement Matters under Articles 14 and 15 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (SEM Guidelines). The SEM process is an important mechanism for sharing information with the public on the enforcement of environmental law in North America. By adopting the revised Guidelines, the CEC Council has taken decisive action to modernize and improve the process.
Among the most significant changes is the establishment of target deadlines for key steps in the SEM process. These deadlines are expected to reduce the average processing time of submissions by half. For example, the public may now expect a response from the Party, if one is requested by the Secretariat, within six months of the submission being filed, and a factual record, if one is developed, within two and one-half years. Further, if a deadline cannot be met, then an explanation of the reasons and a new date by which the action is to be completed will be provided to the public.
To promote transparency, the revised SEM Guidelines call for key SEM documents to be available in the three languages of the Commission on its website. Additionally, Council will provide written explanations for its factual record instructions, which will be posted on the CEC website. Moreover, Council members have committed to provide the Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) with information on any new developments and actions taken regarding matters raised in a concluded submission.
The revised SEM Guidelines were also updated to allow for the filing of submissions electronically. Additionally, and in recognition of the value of early dialogue regarding environmental enforcement issues of concern, the revised SEM Guidelines facilitate communication between a potential submitter and the Party.
These improvements are the culmination of a year-long review of the SEM process undertaken by a trilateral SEM Modernization Task Force (Task Force) established by the Council in 2011. The Council charged this Task Force with reviewing the implementation of the SEM process and, in particular, with proposing revisions to the SEM Guidelines to improve timeliness, clarity, transparency and accessibility. The JPAC, members of the public, and the CEC Secretariat were actively involved in the review process and made significant contributions to the development of the SEM Task Force proposals.
In line with its commitment to a robust and effective public submission process, and building on the collaboration and momentum of the past year's efforts, the Council has directed that additional steps be taken to enhance the SEM process, such as establishing new online tools to help with the preparation of a submission, increasing public outreach to build awareness of the process, and assessing compliance with the SEM deadlines. Together these actions are expected to ensure that the public submission process, one of the most unique features of the NAAEC, remains a critical mechanism for facilitating public participation, supporting government transparency, and promoting the effective enforcement of environmental law in North America.
About the CEC
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is an intergovernmental organization that supports the cooperative environmental agenda of Canada, Mexico and the United States to green North America's economy, address climate change through promoting a low-carbon economy and protect its environment and the health of its citizens. The CEC is composed of three bodies: a Council representing the governments of the three member countries, a Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) that advises the Council and serves as a liaison with the public, and a Secretariat that supports the Council and the JPAC and prepares independent reports. The CEC brings together governments, civil society, and businesses to develop innovative North American solutions to global environmental challenges. Find out more at: www.cec.org.