Public Participation

Provisions in international water agreements providing the public with access to information are becoming common, no doubt in part due to the adoption of the UNECE 1998 Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, referred to as the Aarhus Convention. This Convention basically provides for:

  • Access to environmental information: The right of all to receive environmental information that is held by public authorities. This can include information on the state of the environment, but also on policies or measures taken, or on the state of human health and safety where this can be affected by the state of the environment. Citizens are entitled to obtain this information within one month of the request and without having to say why they require it. In addition, public authorities are obliged, under the Convention, to actively disseminate environmental information in their possession.
  • Public participation in environmental decision-making: The right to participate from an early stage in environmental decision-making. Arrangements are to be made by public authorities to enable citizens and environmental organizations to comment on, for example, proposals for projects affecting the environment, or plans and programmes relating to the environment, these comments to be taken into due account in decision-making, and information to be provided on the final decisions and the reasons for it.
  • Access to justice in environmental matters: The right to challenge, in a court of law, public decisions that have been made without respecting the two aforementioned rights or environmental law in general.



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