Aarhus Convention – access to environmental information, public participation and justice

AARHUS convention

The Aarhus Convention (UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters) has been ratified by 46 countries and the EU.

It is rights-based, enabling current and future people to access information in government decision-making on any matters concerning the local, national and transboundary environment. It also promotes public participation in decision-making  and provides the right to access to justice through judicial or administrative redress if a public body fails to meet the Convention’s principles or environmental law in general.

There is an Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee with a Review Mechanism that enables people to communicate their concern over a public bodies’ non-compliance.

The focus of the Convention is on procedure rather than on standards, something which as become a point of criticism, as have the exclusion of private bodies as well as concern over the extent to which NGOs represent people effectively. A useful paper from a 2009 Conference on reviewing the implementation of the Convention can be accessed here.