Implementing the Aarhus Convention: Access to justice in environmental matters

11-10-2017

The Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters is an international agreement that gives the public a number of rights with regard to the environment. It consists of three pillars, one of them covering the right of access to justice in cases of non-compliance with environmental law. Implementation of the convention's provisions on access to justice have been the focus of two recent documents, one published by the European Commission and the other by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee. While the European Commission examines the implementation of the convention provisions in the Member States, the UNECE Committee takes a critical look at implementation at EU level. Both papers point to shortcomings, in particular with regard to the right of non-governmental organisations to be heard in court. Regarding implementation at Member State level, the Commission has launched a dialogue procedure with each Member State concerned. When it comes to implementation at EU level, the convention's Meeting of the Parties in September 2017 postponed its decision on the findings of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee in respect of the EU to its next meeting in 2021.

The Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters is an international agreement that gives the public a number of rights with regard to the environment. It consists of three pillars, one of them covering the right of access to justice in cases of non-compliance with environmental law. Implementation of the convention's provisions on access to justice have been the focus of two recent documents, one published by the European Commission and the other by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee. While the European Commission examines the implementation of the convention provisions in the Member States, the UNECE Committee takes a critical look at implementation at EU level. Both papers point to shortcomings, in particular with regard to the right of non-governmental organisations to be heard in court. Regarding implementation at Member State level, the Commission has launched a dialogue procedure with each Member State concerned. When it comes to implementation at EU level, the convention's Meeting of the Parties in September 2017 postponed its decision on the findings of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee in respect of the EU to its next meeting in 2021.