UNEP's Governing Council Adopts Guidelines for National Legislation on Access in Environmental Matters
UNEP’s Governing Council reached a major milestone in implementing Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Development and Environment in the adoption of guidelines for national legislation on access to information, public participation, and access to justice.
Principle 10’s guidelines are fundamental pillars of good environmental governance. They cover critical areas, including freedom of information laws, state of the environment reporting, emergency planning and response, project planning, and environmental harms. Adoption of the guidelines have several significant impacts:
- The decision clarifies minimum legal standards for implementation of Principle 10.
- The decision requires UNEP’s Executive Director to assist countries in implementing programs and policies around access — and thus ensures that UNEP has a mandate to continue advancing the implementation of Principle 10 at the national level.
- The GC’s formal adoption of the guidelines will be critical in strengthening the case that officials and civil society can make for open information systems and decision-making processes.
The Access Initiative and partners played a significant role in leading the push to convince GC members to formally adopt the guidelines, rather than simply “note” them. Staff wrote online articles informing access proponents of the opportunity, and WRI sent staff and international partners to three UNEP meetings. TAI Director Carole Excell participated in the Nairobi Expert Meeting in November of 2009 and played an important role in helping revise the guidelines.
Perhaps most critically, we successfully helped influence the U.S. delegation to the GC through communications with the USEPA and the U.S. Department of State. To our knowledge, no other U.S.-based NGO pressed the delegation on the issue of adoption. Ultimately reversing its earlier position, the U.S. delegation pushed strongly for adoption of the guidelines and successfully persuaded holdout countries to move toward a consensus for adoption.