The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters was adopted on 25th June 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus at the Fourth Ministerial Conference in the ‘Environment for Europe’ process.
Together with its Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, it protects every person’s right to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being. They are the only global legally binding global instruments on environmental democracy that put Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development in practice.
The Aarhus Convention is a new kind of environmental agreement. The Convention:
• Links environmental rights and human rights
• Acknowledges that we owe an obligation to future generations
• Establishes that sustainable development can be achieved only through the involvement of all stakeholders
• Links government accountability and environmental protection
• Focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities in a democratic context.
The subject of the Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The Convention is not only an environmental agreement, it is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness. It grants the public rights and imposes on Parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice. Moreover, the Aarhus Convention is also forging a new process for public participation in the negotiation and implementation of international agreements.