For the first time in the international law the public could directly participate in negotiations, discussions and adoption of the Convention. This was done by a coalition of NGOs that was attending all Convention negotiations, as well as IV Ministerial Conference “Environment For Europe” in Aarhus, Denmark (June 1998) where the countries adopted the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters.
The Convention recognized the rights to access to information, to public participation in environmental decision-making, and to access to justice in environmental matters.
The Convention requires the parties to notify the public concerned – effectively, timely, and adequately – at the early stages of decision-making and to ensure that “in the decision due account is taken of the outcome of the public participation” (Art.6). If the right to environmental information or to participation is violated, anyone can have a right to challenge in court the decision taken.
The non-governmental organizations play a special role in spreading the principles and requirements of the Aarhus Convention. In particular, a number of researches where done by such organizations in Europe. EPL’s lawyers participated in many of these: Implementation Guide to the Aarhus Convention, “Doors to Democracy” (an analysis of the environmental legislation in CEE), Access to Justice Handbook under Aarhus Convention.
It was the “Environment for Europe” process where the right of everyone to favorable environment obtained real space for development and was further recognized by the international law. Remarkably, despite the process of major political and economic changes, it was Europe where environmental human rights became an important part of changes. The “Environment for Europe” process played a vital role in this. The issue of realization of the environmental rights, provided by the Aarhus Convention, is likely to remain a cornerstone of this process.
EPL is enforcing Aarhus Convention to protect citizens’ rights and the environment. EPL was a core partner in the program for promotion of ratification of the Aarhus Convention in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. Nowadays we organize and participate in trainings on the implementation of the Convention.
At the 1st Meeting of the Parties of the Aarhus Convention in 2002, Prof. Svitlana Kravchenko, the President of EPL, was elected to be a member of the Compliance Committee for the Convention (now also vice-chair of the Committee). The Compliance Committee is entitled to consider complaints from the citizens on non-compliance with the Convention by the parties (countries).
EPL was actively participating in the development of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, adopted at the Ministerial Conference in Kyiv, 2003. This Protocol is an important instrument that provides the public the information about environmental pollution.