To what extent have governments intergrated the access principles into law and implemented them in practice?

Significant progress has been made. At the international level the Aarhus Convention was adopted by forty governments and the European Community in Aarhus, Denmark, June of 1998 in the ‘Environment for Europe’ process (UNECE). This convention is the only multilateral environmental agreement that specifically promotes citizens’ environmental rights. UNEP Guidelines on Principle 10 were adopted in February of 2010 at the United Nations Global Ministerial meeting in Bali (Environment Forum). The guidelines set out the minimum legal standards for implementation of principal 10 and mandated UNEP to assist countries in implementing programs and policies around access to information, public participation, and access to justice.

At the national level, most countries have put in place the basic elements of a legal framework to support access rights. Constitutions and laws now guarantee freedom of information in more than 85 countriesfoi-lawsMany governments have enacted administrative processes, such as environmental impact assessments, that mandate public participation.  However there are still wide gaps between law and practice, promises and implementation. Progress in relation to access to justice is still slow with groups being subject to intimidation, significant barriers of cost to take actions before the courts and delays in timeliness of decisions and enforcement of judgments.  Profound transformations are still necessary to achieve implementation of access rights in a framework of transparency where governments and civil society share a commitment to environmental democracy.


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