Principle 10

Promoting Principle 10 globally

Since the adoption of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development at the Earth Summit in 1992, its elements (access to information, public participation and access to justice) have progressively gained momentum and have increasingly been implemented globally. Many countries, including in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, have enacted legislation on the matter, although in many cases not adequately covering all three elements of Principle 10. At the regional level, in Europe, Principle 10 has been codified and elaborated in the Aarhus Convention. There is, however, no comparable instrument at the global level or in other regions. Principle 10 elements can also be found in global multilateral environmental agreements.

The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) took up the challenge and set up, in 2008, a selected group of high-level external experts and judges to draft guidelines that direct developing countries in the creation of national legislation protecting these access rights. However, alone, these guidelines cannot compel state action. The UNEP secretariat therefore also drafted a complementary resolution on how the Governing Council should act upon the principles and work to ensure states reflect them in new law. In 2010 in Bali, the Governing Council of UNEP adopted the UNEP Guidelines on Developing National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (“Access Guidelines”) The guidelines are voluntary and the secretariat shall disseminate the guidelines and commentary to all countries for further comments to enhance its quality. Furthermore, the Governing Council requested the UNEP Executive Director to assist countries, upon their request, with the development or amendment of national legislation, policies and strategies on access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters. The text of the UNEP guidelines can be found on the following website:

In 2012, there were some hopes that Rio+20 Summit would agree to start negotiations on a global convention on Principle 10 of the Rio 1992 Declaration. Despite the fact that this did not happen, the Rio outcome document ‘The Future We Want’ creates a number of possibilities for advancing Principle 10, e,g, within the framework of the strengthened UNEP and the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Furthermore, there is a strong interest in the Latin American and Caribbean region to develop a regional instrument related to the principles of the Aarhus Convention which have started preparatory process for the regional convention covering the Principle 10. This is a process in which the Aarhus experience can be very valuable the EEB has been involved in the project " Building Bridges between Regions by Improving Public Access to Environmental Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice: Exchange of experience between regions " lead by the REC and financially supported by Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi.

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