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Document 32005D0370

Title and reference
2005/370/EC: Council Decision of 17 February 2005 on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters
  • In force
OJ L 124, 17.5.2005, p. 1–3 (ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, NL, PL, PT, SK, SL, FI, SV)
OJ L 164M , 16.6.2006, p. 17–19 (MT)
Special edition in Bulgarian: Chapter 15 Volume 014 P. 201 - 203
Special edition in Romanian: Chapter 15 Volume 014 P. 201 - 203
Special edition in Croatian: Chapter 15 Volume 003 P. 10 - 12

ELI: http://data.europa.eu/eli/dec/2005/370/oj
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17.5.2005   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 124/1


COUNCIL DECISION

of 17 February 2005

on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters

(2005/370/EC)

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular Article 175(1), in conjunction with the first sentence of the first subparagraph of Article 300(2), and the first subparagraph of Article 300(3), thereof,

Having regard to the proposal from the Commission,

Having regard to the opinion of the European Parliament (1),

Whereas:

(1)

The UN/ECE Convention on access to information, public participation in decision making and access to justice in environmental matters (Aarhus Convention) aims at granting the public rights and imposes on Parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice regarding environmental matters.

(2)

Improvement of the public's access to information and a broader participation of the public in decision-making processes and access to justice are essential tools to ensure public awareness on environmental issues and to promote a better implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation. Thus, it contributes to strengthen and make more effective environmental protection policies.

(3)

The Aarhus Convention is open to ratification, acceptance, approval or accession by States and by regional economic integration organisations.

(4)

Under the terms of the Aarhus Convention, a regional economic integration organisation must declare in its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, the extent of its competence in respect of the matters governed by the Convention.

(5)

The Community, in accordance with the Treaty, and in particular Article 175(1) thereof, is competent, together with its Member States, for entering into international agreements, and for implementing the obligations resulting therefrom, which contribute to the pursuit of the objectives listed in Article 174 of the Treaty.

(6)

The Community and most of its Member States signed the Aarhus Convention in 1998 and since then have pursued their efforts in view of their approval of the Convention. In the meantime, relevant Community legislation is being made consistent with the Convention.

(7)

The objective of the Aarhus Convention, as set forth in its Article 1 thereof, is consistent with the objectives of the Community's environmental policy, listed in Article 174 of the Treaty, pursuant to which the Community, which shares competence with its Member States, has already adopted a comprehensive set of legislation which is evolving and contributes to the achievement of the objective of the Convention, not only by its own institutions, but also by public authorities in its Member States.

(8)

The Aarhus Convention should be approved,

HAS DECIDED AS FOLLOWS:

Article 1

The UN/ECE Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, (Aarhus Convention) is hereby approved on behalf of the Community.

The text of the Aarhus Convention is attached to this Decision.

Article 2

The President of the Council is hereby authorised to designate the person(s) empowered to deposit the instrument of approval with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in accordance with Article 19 of the Aarhus Convention.

At the same time, the designated person(s) shall deposit the declarations set out in the Annex to this Decision, in accordance with Article 19 of the Aarhus Convention.

Article 3

This Decision shall be published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Done at Brussels, 17 February 2005.

For the Council

The President

J.-C. JUNCKER


(1)  Opinion delivered on 31.3.2004.


ANNEX

DECLARATION BY THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY IN ACCORDANCE WITH ARTICLE 19 OF THE CONVENTION ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION, PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN DECISION-MAKING AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS

The European Community declares that, in accordance with the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular Article 175(1) thereof, it is competent for entering into international agreements, and for implementing the obligations resulting therefrom, which contribute to the pursuit of the following objectives:

preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment,

protecting human health,

prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources,

promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems.

Moreover, the European Community declares that it has already adopted several legal instruments, binding on its Member States, implementing provisions of this Convention and will submit and update as appropriate a list of those legal instruments to the Depositary in accordance with Article 10(2) and Article 19(5) of the Convention. In particular, the European Community also declares that the legal instruments in force do not cover fully the implementation of the obligations resulting from Article 9(3) of the Convention as they relate to administrative and judicial procedures to challenge acts and omissions by private persons and public authorities other than the institutions of the European Community as covered by Article 2(2)(d) of the Convention, and that, consequently, its Member States are responsible for the performance of these obligations at the time of approval of the Convention by the European Community and will remain so unless and until the Community, in the exercise of its powers under the EC Treaty, adopts provisions of Community law covering the implementation of those obligations.

Finally, the Community reiterates its declaration made upon signing the Convention that the Community institutions will apply the Convention within the framework of their existing and future rules on access to documents and other relevant rules of Community law in the field covered by the Convention.

The European Community is responsible for the performance of those obligations resulting from the Convention which are covered by Community law in force.

The exercise of Community competence is, by its nature, subject to continuous development.

DECLARATION BY THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY CONCERNING CERTAIN SPECIFIC PROVISIONS UNDER DIRECTIVE 2003/4/EC

In relation to Article 9 of the Aarhus Convention, the European Community invites Parties to the Convention to take note of Article 2(2) and Article 6 of Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2003 on Public Access to Environmental Information. These provisions give Member States of the European Community the possibility, in exceptional cases and under strictly specified conditions, to exclude certain institutions and bodies from the rules on review procedures in relation to decisions on requests for information.

Therefore the ratification by the European Community of the Aarhus Convention encompasses any reservation by a Member State of the European Community to the extent that such a reservation is compatible with Article 2(2) and Article 6 of Directive 2003/4/EC.


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17.5.2005   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 124/4


CONVENTION ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION, PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN DECISION‐MAKING AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS

done at Aarhus, Denmark, on 25 June 1998

The Parties to this Convention,

Recalling principle l of the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment,

Recalling also principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,

Recalling further General Assembly resolutions 37/7 of 28 October 1982 on the World Charter for Nature and 45/94 of 14 December 1990 on the need to ensure a healthy environment for the well-being of individuals,

Recalling the European Charter on Environment and Health adopted at the First European Conference on Environment and Health of the World Health Organization in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, on 8 December 1989,

Affirming the need to protect, preserve and improve the state of the environment and to ensure sustainable and environmentally sound development,

Recognising that adequate protection of the environment is essential to human well-being and the enjoyment of basic human rights, including the right to life itself,

Recognising also that every person has the right to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, and the duty, both individually and in association with others, to protect and improve the environment for the benefit of present and future generations,

Considering that, to be able to assert this right and observe this duty, citizens must have access to information, be entitled to participate in decision-making and have access to justice in environmental matters, and acknowledging in this regard that citizens may need assistance in order to exercise their rights,

Recognising that, in the field of the environment, improved access to information and public participation in decision-making enhance the quality and the implementation of decisions, contribute to public awareness of environmental issues, give the public the opportunity to express its concerns and enable public authorities to take due account of such concerns,

Aiming thereby to further the accountability of and transparency in decision-making and to strengthen public support for decisions on the environment,

Recognising the desirability of transparency in all branches of government and inviting legislative bodies to implement the principles of this Convention in their proceedings,

Recognising also that the public needs to be aware of the procedures for participation in environmental decision-making, have free access to them and know how to use them,

Recognising further the importance of the respective roles that individual citizens, non-governmental organisations and the private sector can play in environmental protection,

Desiring to promote environmental education to further the understanding of the environment and sustainable development and to encourage widespread public awareness of, and participation in, decisions affecting the environment and sustainable development,

Noting, in this context, the importance of making use of the media and of electronic or other, future forms of communication,

Recognising the importance of fully integrating environmental considerations in governmental decision-making and the consequent need for public authorities to be in possession of accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date environmental information,

Acknowledging that public authorities hold environmental information in the public interest,

Concerned that effective judicial mechanisms should be accessible to the public, including organisations, so that its legitimate interests are protected and the law is enforced,

Noting the importance of adequate product information being provided to consumers to enable them to make informed environmental choices,

Recognising the concern of the public about the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment and the need for increased transparency and greater public participation in decision-making in this field,

Convinced that the implementation of this Convention will contribute to strengthening democracy in the region of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE),

Conscious of the role played in this respect by ECE and recalling, inter alia, the ECE Guidelines on Access to Environmental Information and Public Participation in Environmental Decision-making endorsed in the Ministerial Declaration adopted at the Third Ministerial Conference ‘Environment for Europe’ in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 25 October 1995,

Bearing in mind the relevant provisions in the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, done at Espoo, Finland, on 25 February 1991, and the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents and the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, both done at Helsinki on 17 March 1992, and other regional conventions,

Conscious that the adoption of this Convention will have contributed to the further strengthening of the ‘Environment for Europe’ process and to the results of the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Aarhus, Denmark, in June 1998,

HAVE AGREED AS FOLLOWS:

Article 1

Objective

In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each Party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

Article 2

Definitions

For the purposes of this Convention,

1.

‘Party’ means, unless the text otherwise indicates, a Contracting Party to this Convention;

2.

‘Public authority’ means:

(a)

government at national, regional and other level;

(b)

natural or legal persons performing public administrative functions under national law, including specific duties, activities or services in relation to the environment;

(c)

any other natural or legal persons having public responsibilities or functions, or providing public services, in relation to the environment, under the control of a body or person falling within subparagraphs (a) or (b) above;

(d)

the institutions of any regional economic integration organisation referred to in Article 17 which is a Party to this Convention.

This definition does not include bodies or institutions acting in a judicial or legislative capacity;

3.

‘Environmental information’ means any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form on:

(a)

the state of elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms, and the interaction among these elements;

(b)

factors, such as substances, energy, noise and radiation, and activities or measures, including administrative measures, environmental agreements, policies, legislation, plans and programmes, affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment within the scope of subparagraph(a) above, and cost-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used in environmental decision-making;

(c)

the state of human health and safety, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures, inasmuch as they are or may be affected by the state of the elements of the environment or, through these elements, by the factors, activities or measures referred to in subparagraph (b) above;

4.

‘The public’ means one or more natural or legal persons, and, in accordance with national legislation or practice, their associations, organisations or groups;

5.

‘The public concerned’ means the public affected or likely to be affected by, or having an interest in, the environmental decision-making; for the purposes of this definition, non-governmental organisations promoting environmental protection and meeting any requirements under national law shall be deemed to have an interest.

Article 3

General provisions

1.   Each Party shall take the necessary legislative, regulatory and other measures, including measures to achieve compatibility between the provisions implementing the information, public participation and access-to-justice provisions in this Convention, as well as proper enforcement measures, to establish and maintain a clear, transparent and consistent framework to implement the provisions of this Convention.

2.   Each Party shall endeavour to ensure that officials and authorities assist and provide guidance to the public in seeking access to information, in facilitating participation in decision-making and in seeking access to justice in environmental matters.

3.   Each Party shall promote environmental education and environmental awareness among the public, especially on how to obtain access to information, to participate in decision-making and to obtain access to justice in environmental matters.

4.   Each Party shall provide for appropriate recognition of and support to associations, organisations or groups promoting environmental protection and ensure that its national legal system is consistent with this obligation.

5.   The provisions of this Convention shall not affect the right of a Party to maintain or introduce measures providing for broader access to information, more extensive public participation in decision-making and wider access to justice in environmental matters than required by this Convention.

6.   This Convention shall not require any derogation from existing rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.

7.   Each Party shall promote the application of the principles of this Convention in international environmental decision-making processes and within the framework of international organisations in matters relating to the environment.

8.   Each Party shall ensure that persons exercising their rights in conformity with the provisions of this Convention shall not be penalised, persecuted or harassed in any way for their involvement. This provision shall not affect the powers of national courts to award reasonable costs in judicial proceedings.

9.   Within the scope of the relevant provisions of this Convention, the public shall have access to information, have the possibility to participate in decision-making and have access to justice in environmental matters without discrimination as to citizenship, nationality or domicile and, in the case of a legal person, without discrimination as to where it has its registered seat or an effective centre of its activities.

Article 4

Access to environmental information

1.

(a)

without an interest having to be stated;

(b)

in the form requested unless:

(i)

it is reasonable for the public authority to make it available in another form, in which case reasons shall be given for making it available in that form; or

(ii)

the information is already publicly available in another form.

2.   The environmental information referred to in paragraph 1 above shall be made available as soon as possible and at the latest within one month after the request has been submitted, unless the volume and the complexity of the information justify an extension of this period up to two months after the request. The applicant shall be informed of any extension and of the reasons justifying it.

3.

(a)

the public authority to which the request is addressed does not hold the environmental information requested;

(b)

the request is manifestly unreasonable or formulated in too general a manner; or

(c)

the request concerns material in the course of completion or concerns internal communications of public authorities where such an exemption is provided for in national law or customary practice, taking into account the public interest served by disclosure.

4.   A request for environmental information may be refused if the disclosure would adversely affect:

(a)

the confidentiality of the proceedings of public authorities, where such confidentiality is provided for under national law;

(b)

international relations, national defence or public security;

(c)

the course of justice, the ability of a person to receive a fair trial or the ability of a public authority to conduct an enquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature;

(d)

the confidentiality of commercial and industrial information, where such confidentiality is protected by law in order to protect a legitimate economic interest. Within this framework, information on emissions which is relevant for the protection of the environment shall be disclosed;

(e)

intellectual property rights;

(f)

the confidentiality of personal data and/or files relating to a natural person where that person has not consented to the disclosure of the information to the public, where such confidentiality is provided for in national law;

(g)

the interests of a third party which has supplied the information requested without that party being under or capable of being put under a legal obligation to do so, and where that party does not consent to the release of the material; or

(h)

the environment to which the information relates, such as the breeding sites of rare species.

The aforementioned grounds for refusal shall be interpreted in a restrictive way, taking into account the public interest served by disclosure and taking into account whether the information requested relates to emissions into the environment.

5.   Where a public authority does not hold the environmental information requested, this public authority shall, as promptly as possible, inform the applicant of the public authority to which it believes it is possible to apply for the information requested or transfer the request to that authority and inform the applicant accordingly.

6.   Each Party shall ensure that, if information exempted from disclosure under paragraphs 3(c) and 4 above can be separated out without prejudice to the confidentiality of the information exempted, public authorities make available the remainder of the environmental information that has been requested.

7.   A refusal of a request shall be in writing if the request was in writing or the applicant so requests. A refusal shall state the reasons for the refusal and give information on access to the review procedure provided for in accordance with Article 9. The refusal shall be made as soon as possible and at the latest within one month, unless the complexity of the information justifies an extension of this period up to two months after the request. The applicant shall be informed of any extension and of the reasons justifying it.

8.   Each Party may allow its public authorities to make a charge for supplying information, but such charge shall not exceed a reasonable amount.

Public authorities intending to make such a charge for supplying information shall make available to applicants a schedule of charges which may be levied, indicating the circumstances in which they may be levied or waived and when the supply of information is conditional on the advance payment of such a charge.

Article 5

Collection and dissemination of environmental information

1.

(a)

public authorities possess and update environmental information which is relevant to their functions;

(b)

mandatory systems are established so that there is an adequate flow of information to public authorities about proposed and existing activities which may significantly affect the environment;

(c)

in the event of any imminent threat to human health or the environment, whether caused by human activities or due to natural causes, all information which could enable the public to take measures to prevent or mitigate harm arising from the threat and is held by a public authority is disseminated immediately and without delay to members of the public who may be affected.

inter alia

(a)

providing sufficient information to the public about the type and scope of environmental information held by the relevant public authorities, the basic terms and conditions under which such information is made available and accessible, and the process by which it can be obtained;

(b)

establishing and maintaining practical arrangements, such as:

(i)

publicly accessible lists, registers or files;

(ii)

requiring officials to support the public in seeking access to information under this Convention; and

(iii)

the identification of points of contact; and

(c)

providing access to the environmental information contained in lists, registers or files as referred to in subparagraph (b) (i) above free of charge.

3.

(a)

reports on the state of the environment, as referred to in paragraph 4 below;

(b)

texts of legislation on or relating to the environment;

(c)

as appropriate, policies, plans and programmes on or relating to the environment, and environmental agreements; and

(d)

other information, to the extent that the availability of such information in this form would facilitate the application of national law implementing this Convention, provided that such information is already available in electronic form.

4.   Each Party shall, at regular intervals not exceeding three or four years, publish and disseminate a national report on the state of the environment, including information on the quality of the environment and information on pressures on the environment.

inter alia

(a)

legislation and policy documents such as documents on strategies, policies, programmes and action plans relating to the environment, and progress reports on their implementation, prepared at various levels of government;

(b)

international treaties, conventions and agreements on environmental issues; and

(c)

other significant international documents on environmental issues, as appropriate.

6.   Each Party shall encourage operators whose activities have a significant impact on the environment to inform the public regularly of the environmental impact of their activities and products, where appropriate within the framework of voluntary eco-labelling or eco-auditing schemes or by other means.

7.

(a)

publish the facts and analyses of facts which it considers relevant and important in framing major environmental policy proposals;

(b)

publish, or otherwise make accessible, available explanatory material on its dealings with the public in matters falling within the scope of this Convention; and

(c)

provide in an appropriate form information on the performance of public functions or the provision of public services relating to the environment by government at all levels.

8.   Each Party shall develop mechanisms with a view to ensuring that sufficient product information is made available to the public in a manner which enables consumers to make informed environmental choices.

9.   Each Party shall take steps to establish progressively, taking into account international processes where appropriate, a coherent, nationwide system of pollution inventories or registers on a structured, computerised and publicly accessible database compiled through standardised reporting. Such a system may include inputs, releases and transfers of a specified range of substances and products, including water, energy and resource use, from a specified range of activities to environmental media and to on-site and off-site treatment and disposal sites.

10.   Nothing in this article may prejudice the right of Parties to refuse to disclose certain environmental information in accordance with Article 4(3) and (4).

Article 6

Public participation in decisions on specific activities

1.

(a)

shall apply the provisions of this article with respect to decisions on whether to permit proposed activities listed in Annex I;

(b)

shall, in accordance with its national law, also apply the provisions of this article to decisions on proposed activities not listed in Annex I which may have a significant effect on the environment. To this end, Parties shall determine whether such a proposed activity is subject to these provisions; and

(c)

may decide, on a case-by-case basis if so provided under national law, not to apply the provisions of this article to proposed activities serving national defence purposes, if that Party deems that such application would have an adverse effect on these purposes.

inter alia

(a)

the proposed activity and the application on which a decision will be taken;

(b)

the nature of possible decisions or the draft decision;

(c)

the public authority responsible for making the decision;

(d)

the envisaged procedure, including, as and when this information can be provided:

(i)

the commencement of the procedure;

(ii)

the opportunities for the public to participate;

(iii)

the time and venue of any envisaged public hearing;

(iv)

an indication of the public authority from which relevant information can be obtained and where the relevant information has been deposited for examination by the public;

(v)

an indication of the relevant public authority or any other official body to which comments or questions can be submitted and of the time schedule for transmittal of comments or questions; and

(vi)

an indication of what environmental information relevant to the proposed activity is available; and

(e)

the fact that the activity is subject to a national or transboundary environmental impact assessment procedure.

3.   The public participation procedures shall include reasonable time-frames for the different phases, allowing sufficient time for informing the public in accordance with paragraph 2 above and for the public to prepare and participate effectively during the environmental decision-making.

4.   Each Party shall provide for early public participation, when all options are open and effective public participation can take place.

5.   Each Party should, where appropriate, encourage prospective applicants to identify the public concerned, to enter into discussions, and to provide information regarding the objectives of their application before applying for a permit.

6.

(a)

a description of the site and the physical and technical characteristics of the proposed activity, including an estimate of the expected residues and emissions;

(b)

a description of the significant effects of the proposed activity on the environment;

(c)

a description of the measures envisaged to prevent and/or reduce the effects, including emissions;

(d)

a non-technical summary of the above;

(e)

an outline of the main alternatives studied by the applicant; and

(f)

in accordance with national legislation, the main reports and advice issued to the public authority at the time when the public concerned shall be informed in accordance with paragraph 2 above.

7.   Procedures for public participation shall allow the public to submit, in writing or, as appropriate, at a public hearing or inquiry with the applicant, any comments, information, analyses or opinions that it considers relevant to the proposed activity.

8.   Each Party shall ensure that in the decision due account is taken of the outcome of the public participation.

9.   Each Party shall ensure that, when the decision has been taken by the public authority, the public is promptly informed of the decision in accordance with the appropriate procedures. Each Party shall make accessible to the public the text of the decision along with the reasons and considerations on which the decision is based.

10.   Each Party shall ensure that, when a public authority reconsiders or updates the operating conditions for an activity referred to in paragraph 1, the provisions of paragraphs 2 to 9 of this Article are applied mutatis mutandis, and where appropriate.

11.   Each Party shall, within the framework of its national law, apply, to the extent feasible and appropriate, provisions of this article to decisions on whether to permit the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment.

Article 7

Public participation concerning plans, programmes and policies relating to the environment

Each Party shall make appropriate practical and/or other provisions for the public to participate during the preparation of plans and programmes relating to the environment, within a transparent and fair framework, having provided the necessary information to the public. Within this framework, Article 6(3), (4) and (8), shall be applied. The public which may participate shall be identified by the relevant public authority, taking into account the objectives of this Convention. To the extent appropriate, each Party shall endeavour to provide opportunities for public participation in the preparation of policies relating to the environment.

Article 8

Public participation during the preparation of executive regulations and/or generally applicable legally binding normative instruments

Each Party shall strive to promote effective public participation at an appropriate stage, and while options are still open, during the preparation by public authorities of executive regulations and other generally applicable legally binding rules that may have a significant effect on the environment.

To this end, the following steps should be taken:

(a)

time-frames sufficient for effective participation should be fixed;

(b)

draft rules should be published or otherwise made publicly available; and

(c)

the public should be given the opportunity to comment, directly or through representative consultative bodies.

The result of the public participation shall be taken into account as far as possible.

Article 9

Access to justice

1.   Each Party shall, within the framework of its national legislation, ensure that any person who considers that his or her request for information under Article 4 has been ignored, wrongfully refused, whether in part or in full, inadequately answered, or otherwise not dealt with in accordance with the provisions of that article, has access to a review procedure before a court of law or another independent and impartial body established by law.

In the circumstances where a Party provides for such a review by a court of law, it shall ensure that such a person also has access to an expeditious procedure established by law that is free of charge or inexpensive for reconsideration by a public authority or review by an independent and impartial body other than a court of law.

Final decisions under this paragraph 1 shall be binding on the public authority holding the information. Reasons shall be stated in writing, at least where access to information is refused under this paragraph.

2.   Each Party shall, within the framework of its national legislation, ensure that members of the public concerned:

(a)

having a sufficient interest or, alternatively,

(b)

maintaining impairment of a right, where the administrative procedural law of a Party requires this as a precondition, have access to a review procedure before a court of law and/or another independent and impartial body established by law, to challenge the substantive and procedural legality of any decision, act or omission subject to the provisions of Article 6 and, where so provided for under national law and without prejudice to paragraph 3 below, of other relevant provisions of this Convention.

What constitutes a sufficient interest and impairment of a right shall be determined in accordance with the requirements of national law and consistently with the objective of giving the public concerned wide access to justice within the scope of this Convention. To this end, the interest of any non-governmental organisation meeting the requirements referred to in Article 2(5), shall be deemed sufficient for the purpose of subparagraph (a) above. Such organisations shall also be deemed to have rights capable of being impaired for the purpose of subparagraph (b) above.

The provisions of this paragraph 2 shall not exclude the possibility of a preliminary review procedure before an administrative authority and shall not affect the requirement of exhaustion of administrative review procedures prior to recourse to judicial review procedures, where such a requirement exists under national law.

3.   In addition and without prejudice to the review procedures referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 above, each Party shall ensure that, where they meet the criteria, if any, laid down in its national law, members of the public have access to administrative or judicial procedures to challenge acts and omissions by private persons and public authorities which contravene provisions of its national law relating to the environment.

4.   In addition and without prejudice to paragraph 1 above, the procedures referred to in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 above shall provide adequate and effective remedies, including injunctive relief as appropriate, and be fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive. Decisions under this Article shall be given or recorded in writing. Decisions of courts, and whenever possible of other bodies, shall be publicly accessible.

5.   In order to further the effectiveness of the provisions of this article, each Party shall ensure that information is provided to the public on access to administrative and judicial review procedures and shall consider the establishment of appropriate assistance mechanisms to remove or reduce financial and other barriers to access to justice.

Article 10

Meeting of the parties

1.   The first meeting of the Parties shall be convened no later than one year after the date of the entry into force of this Convention. Thereafter, an ordinary meeting of the Parties shall be held at least once every two years, unless otherwise decided by the Parties, or at the written request of any Party, provided that, within six months of the request being communicated to all Parties by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, the said request is supported by at least one third of the Parties.

2.

(a)

review the policies for and legal and methodological approaches to access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, with a view to further improving them;

(b)

exchange information regarding experience gained in concluding and implementing bilateral and multilateral agreements or other arrangements having relevance to the purposes of this Convention and to which one or more of the Parties are a party;

(c)

seek, where appropriate, the services of relevant ECE bodies and other competent international bodies and specific committees in all aspects pertinent to the achievement of the purposes of this Convention;

(d)

establish any subsidiary bodies as they deem necessary;

(e)

prepare, where appropriate, protocols to this Convention;

(f)

consider and adopt proposals for amendments to this Convention in accordance with the provisions of Article 14;

(g)

consider and undertake any additional action that may be required for the achievement of the purposes of this Convention;

(h)

at their first meeting, consider and by consensus adopt rules of procedure for their meetings and the meetings of subsidiary bodies;

(i)

at their first meeting, review their experience in implementing the provisions of Article 5, paragraph 9, and consider what steps are necessary to develop further the system referred to in that paragraph, taking into account international processes and developments, including the elaboration of an appropriate instrument concerning pollution release and transfer registers or inventories which could be annexed to this Convention.

3.   The Meeting of the Parties may, as necessary, consider establishing financial arrangements on a consensus basis.

4.   The United Nations, its specialised agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as any State or regional economic integration organisation entitled under Article 17 to sign this Convention but which is not a Party to this Convention, and any intergovernmental organisation qualified in the fields to which this Convention relates, shall be entitled to participate as observers in the meetings of the Parties.

5.   Any non-governmental organisation, qualified in the fields to which this Convention relates, which has informed the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe of its wish to be represented at a meeting of the Parties shall be entitled to participate as an observer unless at least one third of the Parties present in the meeting raise objections.

6.   For the purposes of paragraphs 4 and 5 above, the rules of procedure referred to in paragraph 2(h) above shall provide for practical arrangements for the admittance procedure and other relevant terms.

Article 11

Right to vote

1.   Except as provided for in paragraph 2 below, each Party to this Convention shall have one vote.

2.   Regional economic integration organisations, in matters within their competence, shall exercise their right to vote with a number of votes equal to the number of their Member States which are Parties to this Convention. Such organisations shall not exercise their right to vote if their Member States exercise theirs, and vice versa.

Article 12

Secretariat

(a)

the convening and preparing of meetings of the Parties;

(b)

the transmission to the Parties of reports and other information received in accordance with the provisions of this Convention; and

(c)

such other functions as may be determined by the Parties.

Article 13

Annexes

The annexes to this Convention shall constitute an integral part thereof.

Article 14

Amendments to the Convention

1.   Any Party may propose amendments to this Convention.

2.   The text of any proposed amendment to this Convention shall be submitted in writing to the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, who shall communicate it to all Parties at least 90 days before the meeting of the Parties at which it is proposed for adoption.

3.   The Parties shall make every effort to reach agreement on any proposed amendment to this Convention by consensus. If all efforts at consensus have been exhausted, and no agreement reached, the amendment shall as a last resort be adopted by a three-quarter majority vote of the Parties present and voting at the meeting.

4.   Amendments to this Convention adopted in accordance with paragraph 3 above shall be communicated by the Depositary to all Parties for ratification, approval or acceptance. Amendments to this Convention other than those to an annex shall enter into force for Parties having ratified, approved or accepted them on the 90th day after the receipt by the Depositary of notification of their ratification, approval or acceptance by at least three fourths of these Parties. Thereafter they shall enter into force for any other Party on the 90th day after that Party deposits its instrument of ratification, approval or acceptance of the amendments.

5.   Party that is unable to approve an amendment to an annex to this Convention shall so notify the Depositary in writing within 12 months from the date of the communication of the adoption. The Depositary shall without delay notify all Parties of any such notification received. A Party may at any time substitute an acceptance for its previous notification and, upon deposit of an instrument of acceptance with the Depositary, the amendments to such an annex shall become effective for that Party.

6.   On the expiry of 12 months from the date of its communication by the Depositary as provided for in paragraph 4 above an amendment to an annex shall become effective for those Parties which have not submitted a notification to the Depositary in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 5 above, provided that not more than one third of the Parties have submitted such a notification.

7.   For the purposes of this Article, ‘Parties present and voting’ means Parties present and casting an affirmative or negative vote.

Article 15

Review of compliance

The Meeting of the Parties shall establish, on a consensus basis, optional arrangements of a non-confrontational, non-judicial and consultative nature for reviewing compliance with the provisions of this Convention. These arrangements shall allow for appropriate public involvement and may include the option of considering communications from members of the public on matters related to this Convention.

Article 16

Settlement of disputes

1.   If a dispute arises between two or more Parties about the interpretation or application of this Convention, they shall seek a solution by negotiation or by any other means of dispute settlement acceptable to the parties to the dispute.

2.

(a)

submission of the dispute to the International Court of Justice;

(b)

arbitration in accordance with the procedure set out in Annex II.

3.   If the parties to the dispute have accepted both means of dispute settlement referred to in paragraph 2 above, the dispute may be submitted only to the International Court of Justice, unless the parties agree otherwise.

Article 17

Signature

This Convention shall be open for signature at Aarhus (Denmark) on 25 June 1998, and thereafter at United Nations Headquarters in New York until 21 December 1998, by States' members of the Economic Commission for Europe as well as States having consultative status with the Economic Commission for Europe pursuant to paragraphs 8 and 11 of Economic and Social Council Resolution 36 (IV) of 28 March 1947, and by regional economic integration organisations constituted by sovereign States' members of the Economic Commission for Europe to which their Member States have transferred competence over matters governed by this Convention, including the competence to enter into treaties in respect of these matters.

Article 18

Depositary

The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall act as the Depositary of this Convention.

Article 19

Ratification, acceptance, approval and accession

1.   This Convention shall be subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by signatory States and regional economic integration organisations.

2.   This Convention shall be open for accession as from 22 December 1998 by the States and regional economic integration organisations referred to in Article 17.

3.   Any other State, not referred to in paragraph 2 above, that is a Member of the United Nations may accede to the Convention upon approval by the Meeting of the Parties.

4.   Any organisation referred to in Article 17 which becomes a Party to this Convention without any of its Member States being a Party shall be bound by all the obligations under this Convention. If one or more of such an organisation's Member States is a Party to this Convention, the organisation and its Member States shall decide on their respective responsibilities for the performance of their obligations under this Convention. In such cases, the organisation and the Member States shall not be entitled to exercise rights under this Convention concurrently.

5.   In their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, the regional economic integration organisations referred to in Article 17 shall declare the extent of their competence with respect to the matters governed by this Convention. These organisations shall also inform the Depositary of any substantial modification to the extent of their competence.

Article 20

Entry into force

1.   This Convention shall enter into force on the 90th day after the date of deposit of the 16th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

2.   For the purposes of paragraph 1 above, any instrument deposited by a regional economic integration organisation shall not be counted as additional to those deposited by States members of such an organisation.

3.   For each State or organisation referred to in Article 17 which ratifies, accepts or approves this Convention or accedes thereto after the deposit of the sixteenth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, the Convention shall enter into force on the 90th day after the date of deposit by such State or organisation of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Article 21

Withdrawal

At any time after three years from the date on which this Convention has come into force with respect to a Party, that Party may withdraw from the Convention by giving written notification to the Depositary. Any such withdrawal shall take effect on the 90th day after the date of its receipt by the Depositary.

Article 22

Authentic texts

The original of this Convention, of which the English, French and Russian texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, being duly authorised thereto, have signed this Convention.

DONE at Aarhus (Denmark), this twenty-fifth day of June, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight.


CONVENTION ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION, PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN DECISION‐MAKING AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS

done at Aarhus, Denmark, on 25 June 1998

The Parties to this Convention,

Recalling principle l of the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment,

Recalling also principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,

Recalling further General Assembly resolutions 37/7 of 28 October 1982 on the World Charter for Nature and 45/94 of 14 December 1990 on the need to ensure a healthy environment for the well-being of individuals,

Recalling the European Charter on Environment and Health adopted at the First European Conference on Environment and Health of the World Health Organization in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, on 8 December 1989,

Affirming the need to protect, preserve and improve the state of the environment and to ensure sustainable and environmentally sound development,

Recognising that adequate protection of the environment is essential to human well-being and the enjoyment of basic human rights, including the right to life itself,

Recognising also that every person has the right to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, and the duty, both individually and in association with others, to protect and improve the environment for the benefit of present and future generations,

Considering that, to be able to assert this right and observe this duty, citizens must have access to information, be entitled to participate in decision-making and have access to justice in environmental matters, and acknowledging in this regard that citizens may need assistance in order to exercise their rights,

Recognising that, in the field of the environment, improved access to information and public participation in decision-making enhance the quality and the implementation of decisions, contribute to public awareness of environmental issues, give the public the opportunity to express its concerns and enable public authorities to take due account of such concerns,

Aiming thereby to further the accountability of and transparency in decision-making and to strengthen public support for decisions on the environment,

Recognising the desirability of transparency in all branches of government and inviting legislative bodies to implement the principles of this Convention in their proceedings,

Recognising also that the public needs to be aware of the procedures for participation in environmental decision-making, have free access to them and know how to use them,

Recognising further the importance of the respective roles that individual citizens, non-governmental organisations and the private sector can play in environmental protection,

Desiring to promote environmental education to further the understanding of the environment and sustainable development and to encourage widespread public awareness of, and participation in, decisions affecting the environment and sustainable development,

Noting, in this context, the importance of making use of the media and of electronic or other, future forms of communication,

Recognising the importance of fully integrating environmental considerations in governmental decision-making and the consequent need for public authorities to be in possession of accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date environmental information,

Acknowledging that public authorities hold environmental information in the public interest,

Concerned that effective judicial mechanisms should be accessible to the public, including organisations, so that its legitimate interests are protected and the law is enforced,

Noting the importance of adequate product information being provided to consumers to enable them to make informed environmental choices,

Recognising the concern of the public about the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment and the need for increased transparency and greater public participation in decision-making in this field,

Convinced that the implementation of this Convention will contribute to strengthening democracy in the region of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE),

Conscious of the role played in this respect by ECE and recalling, inter alia, the ECE Guidelines on Access to Environmental Information and Public Participation in Environmental Decision-making endorsed in the Ministerial Declaration adopted at the Third Ministerial Conference ‘Environment for Europe’ in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 25 October 1995,

Bearing in mind the relevant provisions in the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, done at Espoo, Finland, on 25 February 1991, and the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents and the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, both done at Helsinki on 17 March 1992, and other regional conventions,

Conscious that the adoption of this Convention will have contributed to the further strengthening of the ‘Environment for Europe’ process and to the results of the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Aarhus, Denmark, in June 1998,

HAVE AGREED AS FOLLOWS:

Article 1

Objective

In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each Party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

Article 2

Definitions

For the purposes of this Convention,

1.

‘Party’ means, unless the text otherwise indicates, a Contracting Party to this Convention;

2.

‘Public authority’ means:

(a)

government at national, regional and other level;

(b)

natural or legal persons performing public administrative functions under national law, including specific duties, activities or services in relation to the environment;

(c)

any other natural or legal persons having public responsibilities or functions, or providing public services, in relation to the environment, under the control of a body or person falling within subparagraphs (a) or (b) above;

(d)

the institutions of any regional economic integration organisation referred to in Article 17 which is a Party to this Convention.

This definition does not include bodies or institutions acting in a judicial or legislative capacity;

3.

‘Environmental information’ means any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form on:

(a)

the state of elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms, and the interaction among these elements;

(b)

factors, such as substances, energy, noise and radiation, and activities or measures, including administrative measures, environmental agreements, policies, legislation, plans and programmes, affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment within the scope of subparagraph(a) above, and cost-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used in environmental decision-making;

(c)

the state of human health and safety, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures, inasmuch as they are or may be affected by the state of the elements of the environment or, through these elements, by the factors, activities or measures referred to in subparagraph (b) above;

4.

‘The public’ means one or more natural or legal persons, and, in accordance with national legislation or practice, their associations, organisations or groups;

5.

‘The public concerned’ means the public affected or likely to be affected by, or having an interest in, the environmental decision-making; for the purposes of this definition, non-governmental organisations promoting environmental protection and meeting any requirements under national law shall be deemed to have an interest.

Article 3

General provisions

1.   Each Party shall take the necessary legislative, regulatory and other measures, including measures to achieve compatibility between the provisions implementing the information, public participation and access-to-justice provisions in this Convention, as well as proper enforcement measures, to establish and maintain a clear, transparent and consistent framework to implement the provisions of this Convention.

2.   Each Party shall endeavour to ensure that officials and authorities assist and provide guidance to the public in seeking access to information, in facilitating participation in decision-making and in seeking access to justice in environmental matters.

3.   Each Party shall promote environmental education and environmental awareness among the public, especially on how to obtain access to information, to participate in decision-making and to obtain access to justice in environmental matters.

4.   Each Party shall provide for appropriate recognition of and support to associations, organisations or groups promoting environmental protection and ensure that its national legal system is consistent with this obligation.

5.   The provisions of this Convention shall not affect the right of a Party to maintain or introduce measures providing for broader access to information, more extensive public participation in decision-making and wider access to justice in environmental matters than required by this Convention.

6.   This Convention shall not require any derogation from existing rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.

7.   Each Party shall promote the application of the principles of this Convention in international environmental decision-making processes and within the framework of international organisations in matters relating to the environment.

8.   Each Party shall ensure that persons exercising their rights in conformity with the provisions of this Convention shall not be penalised, persecuted or harassed in any way for their involvement. This provision shall not affect the powers of national courts to award reasonable costs in judicial proceedings.

9.   Within the scope of the relevant provisions of this Convention, the public shall have access to information, have the possibility to participate in decision-making and have access to justice in environmental matters without discrimination as to citizenship, nationality or domicile and, in the case of a legal person, without discrimination as to where it has its registered seat or an effective centre of its activities.

Article 4

Access to environmental information

1.

(a)

without an interest having to be stated;

(b)

in the form requested unless:

(i)

it is reasonable for the public authority to make it available in another form, in which case reasons shall be given for making it available in that form; or

(ii)

the information is already publicly available in another form.

2.   The environmental information referred to in paragraph 1 above shall be made available as soon as possible and at the latest within one month after the request has been submitted, unless the volume and the complexity of the information justify an extension of this period up to two months after the request. The applicant shall be informed of any extension and of the reasons justifying it.

3.

(a)

the public authority to which the request is addressed does not hold the environmental information requested;

(b)

the request is manifestly unreasonable or formulated in too general a manner; or

(c)

the request concerns material in the course of completion or concerns internal communications of public authorities where such an exemption is provided for in national law or customary practice, taking into account the public interest served by disclosure.

4.   A request for environmental information may be refused if the disclosure would adversely affect:

(a)

the confidentiality of the proceedings of public authorities, where such confidentiality is provided for under national law;

(b)

international relations, national defence or public security;

(c)

the course of justice, the ability of a person to receive a fair trial or the ability of a public authority to conduct an enquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature;

(d)

the confidentiality of commercial and industrial information, where such confidentiality is protected by law in order to protect a legitimate economic interest. Within this framework, information on emissions which is relevant for the protection of the environment shall be disclosed;

(e)

intellectual property rights;

(f)

the confidentiality of personal data and/or files relating to a natural person where that person has not consented to the disclosure of the information to the public, where such confidentiality is provided for in national law;

(g)

the interests of a third party which has supplied the information requested without that party being under or capable of being put under a legal obligation to do so, and where that party does not consent to the release of the material; or

(h)

the environment to which the information relates, such as the breeding sites of rare species.

The aforementioned grounds for refusal shall be interpreted in a restrictive way, taking into account the public interest served by disclosure and taking into account whether the information requested relates to emissions into the environment.

5.   Where a public authority does not hold the environmental information requested, this public authority shall, as promptly as possible, inform the applicant of the public authority to which it believes it is possible to apply for the information requested or transfer the request to that authority and inform the applicant accordingly.

6.   Each Party shall ensure that, if information exempted from disclosure under paragraphs 3(c) and 4 above can be separated out without prejudice to the confidentiality of the information exempted, public authorities make available the remainder of the environmental information that has been requested.

7.   A refusal of a request shall be in writing if the request was in writing or the applicant so requests. A refusal shall state the reasons for the refusal and give information on access to the review procedure provided for in accordance with Article 9. The refusal shall be made as soon as possible and at the latest within one month, unless the complexity of the information justifies an extension of this period up to two months after the request. The applicant shall be informed of any extension and of the reasons justifying it.

8.   Each Party may allow its public authorities to make a charge for supplying information, but such charge shall not exceed a reasonable amount.

Public authorities intending to make such a charge for supplying information shall make available to applicants a schedule of charges which may be levied, indicating the circumstances in which they may be levied or waived and when the supply of information is conditional on the advance payment of such a charge.

Article 5

Collection and dissemination of environmental information

1.

(a)

public authorities possess and update environmental information which is relevant to their functions;

(b)

mandatory systems are established so that there is an adequate flow of information to public authorities about proposed and existing activities which may significantly affect the environment;

(c)

in the event of any imminent threat to human health or the environment, whether caused by human activities or due to natural causes, all information which could enable the public to take measures to prevent or mitigate harm arising from the threat and is held by a public authority is disseminated immediately and without delay to members of the public who may be affected.

inter alia

(a)

providing sufficient information to the public about the type and scope of environmental information held by the relevant public authorities, the basic terms and conditions under which such information is made available and accessible, and the process by which it can be obtained;

(b)

establishing and maintaining practical arrangements, such as:

(i)

publicly accessible lists, registers or files;

(ii)

requiring officials to support the public in seeking access to information under this Convention; and

(iii)

the identification of points of contact; and

(c)

providing access to the environmental information contained in lists, registers or files as referred to in subparagraph (b) (i) above free of charge.

3.

(a)

reports on the state of the environment, as referred to in paragraph 4 below;

(b)

texts of legislation on or relating to the environment;

(c)

as appropriate, policies, plans and programmes on or relating to the environment, and environmental agreements; and

(d)

other information, to the extent that the availability of such information in this form would facilitate the application of national law implementing this Convention, provided that such information is already available in electronic form.

4.   Each Party shall, at regular intervals not exceeding three or four years, publish and disseminate a national report on the state of the environment, including information on the quality of the environment and information on pressures on the environment.

inter alia

(a)

legislation and policy documents such as documents on strategies, policies, programmes and action plans relating to the environment, and progress reports on their implementation, prepared at various levels of government;

(b)

international treaties, conventions and agreements on environmental issues; and

(c)

other significant international documents on environmental issues, as appropriate.

6.   Each Party shall encourage operators whose activities have a significant impact on the environment to inform the public regularly of the environmental impact of their activities and products, where appropriate within the framework of voluntary eco-labelling or eco-auditing schemes or by other means.

7.

(a)

publish the facts and analyses of facts which it considers relevant and important in framing major environmental policy proposals;

(b)

publish, or otherwise make accessible, available explanatory material on its dealings with the public in matters falling within the scope of this Convention; and

(c)

provide in an appropriate form information on the performance of public functions or the provision of public services relating to the environment by government at all levels.

8.   Each Party shall develop mechanisms with a view to ensuring that sufficient product information is made available to the public in a manner which enables consumers to make informed environmental choices.

9.   Each Party shall take steps to establish progressively, taking into account international processes where appropriate, a coherent, nationwide system of pollution inventories or registers on a structured, computerised and publicly accessible database compiled through standardised reporting. Such a system may include inputs, releases and transfers of a specified range of substances and products, including water, energy and resource use, from a specified range of activities to environmental media and to on-site and off-site treatment and disposal sites.

10.   Nothing in this article may prejudice the right of Parties to refuse to disclose certain environmental information in accordance with Article 4(3) and (4).

Article 6

Public participation in decisions on specific activities

1.

(a)

shall apply the provisions of this article with respect to decisions on whether to permit proposed activities listed in Annex I;

(b)

shall, in accordance with its national law, also apply the provisions of this article to decisions on proposed activities not listed in Annex I which may have a significant effect on the environment. To this end, Parties shall determine whether such a proposed activity is subject to these provisions; and

(c)

may decide, on a case-by-case basis if so provided under national law, not to apply the provisions of this article to proposed activities serving national defence purposes, if that Party deems that such application would have an adverse effect on these purposes.

inter alia

(a)

the proposed activity and the application on which a decision will be taken;

(b)

the nature of possible decisions or the draft decision;

(c)

the public authority responsible for making the decision;

(d)

the envisaged procedure, including, as and when this information can be provided:

(i)

the commencement of the procedure;

(ii)

the opportunities for the public to participate;

(iii)

the time and venue of any envisaged public hearing;

(iv)

an indication of the public authority from which relevant information can be obtained and where the relevant information has been deposited for examination by the public;

(v)

an indication of the relevant public authority or any other official body to which comments or questions can be submitted and of the time schedule for transmittal of comments or questions; and

(vi)

an indication of what environmental information relevant to the proposed activity is available; and

(e)

the fact that the activity is subject to a national or transboundary environmental impact assessment procedure.

3.   The public participation procedures shall include reasonable time-frames for the different phases, allowing sufficient time for informing the public in accordance with paragraph 2 above and for the public to prepare and participate effectively during the environmental decision-making.

4.   Each Party shall provide for early public participation, when all options are open and effective public participation can take place.

5.   Each Party should, where appropriate, encourage prospective applicants to identify the public concerned, to enter into discussions, and to provide information regarding the objectives of their application before applying for a permit.

6.

(a)

a description of the site and the physical and technical characteristics of the proposed activity, including an estimate of the expected residues and emissions;

(b)

a description of the significant effects of the proposed activity on the environment;

(c)

a description of the measures envisaged to prevent and/or reduce the effects, including emissions;

(d)

a non-technical summary of the above;

(e)

an outline of the main alternatives studied by the applicant; and

(f)

in accordance with national legislation, the main reports and advice issued to the public authority at the time when the public concerned shall be informed in accordance with paragraph 2 above.

7.   Procedures for public participation shall allow the public to submit, in writing or, as appropriate, at a public hearing or inquiry with the applicant, any comments, information, analyses or opinions that it considers relevant to the proposed activity.

8.   Each Party shall ensure that in the decision due account is taken of the outcome of the public participation.

9.   Each Party shall ensure that, when the decision has been taken by the public authority, the public is promptly informed of the decision in accordance with the appropriate procedures. Each Party shall make accessible to the public the text of the decision along with the reasons and considerations on which the decision is based.

10.   Each Party shall ensure that, when a public authority reconsiders or updates the operating conditions for an activity referred to in paragraph 1, the provisions of paragraphs 2 to 9 of this Article are applied mutatis mutandis, and where appropriate.

11.   Each Party shall, within the framework of its national law, apply, to the extent feasible and appropriate, provisions of this article to decisions on whether to permit the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment.

Article 7

Public participation concerning plans, programmes and policies relating to the environment

Each Party shall make appropriate practical and/or other provisions for the public to participate during the preparation of plans and programmes relating to the environment, within a transparent and fair framework, having provided the necessary information to the public. Within this framework, Article 6(3), (4) and (8), shall be applied. The public which may participate shall be identified by the relevant public authority, taking into account the objectives of this Convention. To the extent appropriate, each Party shall endeavour to provide opportunities for public participation in the preparation of policies relating to the environment.

Article 8

Public participation during the preparation of executive regulations and/or generally applicable legally binding normative instruments

Each Party shall strive to promote effective public participation at an appropriate stage, and while options are still open, during the preparation by public authorities of executive regulations and other generally applicable legally binding rules that may have a significant effect on the environment.

To this end, the following steps should be taken:

(a)

time-frames sufficient for effective participation should be fixed;

(b)

draft rules should be published or otherwise made publicly available; and

(c)

the public should be given the opportunity to comment, directly or through representative consultative bodies.

The result of the public participation shall be taken into account as far as possible.

Article 9

Access to justice

1.   Each Party shall, within the framework of its national legislation, ensure that any person who considers that his or her request for information under Article 4 has been ignored, wrongfully refused, whether in part or in full, inadequately answered, or otherwise not dealt with in accordance with the provisions of that article, has access to a review procedure before a court of law or another independent and impartial body established by law.

In the circumstances where a Party provides for such a review by a court of law, it shall ensure that such a person also has access to an expeditious procedure established by law that is free of charge or inexpensive for reconsideration by a public authority or review by an independent and impartial body other than a court of law.

Final decisions under this paragraph 1 shall be binding on the public authority holding the information. Reasons shall be stated in writing, at least where access to information is refused under this paragraph.

2.   Each Party shall, within the framework of its national legislation, ensure that members of the public concerned:

(a)

having a sufficient interest or, alternatively,

(b)

maintaining impairment of a right, where the administrative procedural law of a Party requires this as a precondition, have access to a review procedure before a court of law and/or another independent and impartial body established by law, to challenge the substantive and procedural legality of any decision, act or omission subject to the provisions of Article 6 and, where so provided for under national law and without prejudice to paragraph 3 below, of other relevant provisions of this Convention.

What constitutes a sufficient interest and impairment of a right shall be determined in accordance with the requirements of national law and consistently with the objective of giving the public concerned wide access to justice within the scope of this Convention. To this end, the interest of any non-governmental organisation meeting the requirements referred to in Article 2(5), shall be deemed sufficient for the purpose of subparagraph (a) above. Such organisations shall also be deemed to have rights capable of being impaired for the purpose of subparagraph (b) above.

The provisions of this paragraph 2 shall not exclude the possibility of a preliminary review procedure before an administrative authority and shall not affect the requirement of exhaustion of administrative review procedures prior to recourse to judicial review procedures, where such a requirement exists under national law.

3.   In addition and without prejudice to the review procedures referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 above, each Party shall ensure that, where they meet the criteria, if any, laid down in its national law, members of the public have access to administrative or judicial procedures to challenge acts and omissions by private persons and public authorities which contravene provisions of its national law relating to the environment.

4.   In addition and without prejudice to paragraph 1 above, the procedures referred to in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 above shall provide adequate and effective remedies, including injunctive relief as appropriate, and be fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive. Decisions under this Article shall be given or recorded in writing. Decisions of courts, and whenever possible of other bodies, shall be publicly accessible.

5.   In order to further the effectiveness of the provisions of this article, each Party shall ensure that information is provided to the public on access to administrative and judicial review procedures and shall consider the establishment of appropriate assistance mechanisms to remove or reduce financial and other barriers to access to justice.

Article 10

Meeting of the parties

1.   The first meeting of the Parties shall be convened no later than one year after the date of the entry into force of this Convention. Thereafter, an ordinary meeting of the Parties shall be held at least once every two years, unless otherwise decided by the Parties, or at the written request of any Party, provided that, within six months of the request being communicated to all Parties by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, the said request is supported by at least one third of the Parties.

2.

(a)

review the policies for and legal and methodological approaches to access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, with a view to further improving them;

(b)

exchange information regarding experience gained in concluding and implementing bilateral and multilateral agreements or other arrangements having relevance to the purposes of this Convention and to which one or more of the Parties are a party;

(c)

seek, where appropriate, the services of relevant ECE bodies and other competent international bodies and specific committees in all aspects pertinent to the achievement of the purposes of this Convention;

(d)

establish any subsidiary bodies as they deem necessary;

(e)

prepare, where appropriate, protocols to this Convention;

(f)

consider and adopt proposals for amendments to this Convention in accordance with the provisions of Article 14;

(g)

consider and undertake any additional action that may be required for the achievement of the purposes of this Convention;

(h)

at their first meeting, consider and by consensus adopt rules of procedure for their meetings and the meetings of subsidiary bodies;

(i)

at their first meeting, review their experience in implementing the provisions of Article 5, paragraph 9, and consider what steps are necessary to develop further the system referred to in that paragraph, taking into account international processes and developments, including the elaboration of an appropriate instrument concerning pollution release and transfer registers or inventories which could be annexed to this Convention.

3.   The Meeting of the Parties may, as necessary, consider establishing financial arrangements on a consensus basis.

4.   The United Nations, its specialised agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as any State or regional economic integration organisation entitled under Article 17 to sign this Convention but which is not a Party to this Convention, and any intergovernmental organisation qualified in the fields to which this Convention relates, shall be entitled to participate as observers in the meetings of the Parties.

5.   Any non-governmental organisation, qualified in the fields to which this Convention relates, which has informed the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe of its wish to be represented at a meeting of the Parties shall be entitled to participate as an observer unless at least one third of the Parties present in the meeting raise objections.

6.   For the purposes of paragraphs 4 and 5 above, the rules of procedure referred to in paragraph 2(h) above shall provide for practical arrangements for the admittance procedure and other relevant terms.

Article 11

Right to vote

1.   Except as provided for in paragraph 2 below, each Party to this Convention shall have one vote.

2.   Regional economic integration organisations, in matters within their competence, shall exercise their right to vote with a number of votes equal to the number of their Member States which are Parties to this Convention. Such organisations shall not exercise their right to vote if their Member States exercise theirs, and vice versa.

Article 12

Secretariat

(a)

the convening and preparing of meetings of the Parties;

(b)

the transmission to the Parties of reports and other information received in accordance with the provisions of this Convention; and

(c)

such other functions as may be determined by the Parties.

Article 13

Annexes

The annexes to this Convention shall constitute an integral part thereof.

Article 14

Amendments to the Convention

1.   Any Party may propose amendments to this Convention.

2.   The text of any proposed amendment to this Convention shall be submitted in writing to the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, who shall communicate it to all Parties at least 90 days before the meeting of the Parties at which it is proposed for adoption.

3.   The Parties shall make every effort to reach agreement on any proposed amendment to this Convention by consensus. If all efforts at consensus have been exhausted, and no agreement reached, the amendment shall as a last resort be adopted by a three-quarter majority vote of the Parties present and voting at the meeting.

4.   Amendments to this Convention adopted in accordance with paragraph 3 above shall be communicated by the Depositary to all Parties for ratification, approval or acceptance. Amendments to this Convention other than those to an annex shall enter into force for Parties having ratified, approved or accepted them on the 90th day after the receipt by the Depositary of notification of their ratification, approval or acceptance by at least three fourths of these Parties. Thereafter they shall enter into force for any other Party on the 90th day after that Party deposits its instrument of ratification, approval or acceptance of the amendments.

5.   Party that is unable to approve an amendment to an annex to this Convention shall so notify the Depositary in writing within 12 months from the date of the communication of the adoption. The Depositary shall without delay notify all Parties of any such notification received. A Party may at any time substitute an acceptance for its previous notification and, upon deposit of an instrument of acceptance with the Depositary, the amendments to such an annex shall become effective for that Party.

6.   On the expiry of 12 months from the date of its communication by the Depositary as provided for in paragraph 4 above an amendment to an annex shall become effective for those Parties which have not submitted a notification to the Depositary in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 5 above, provided that not more than one third of the Parties have submitted such a notification.

7.   For the purposes of this Article, ‘Parties present and voting’ means Parties present and casting an affirmative or negative vote.

Article 15

Review of compliance

The Meeting of the Parties shall establish, on a consensus basis, optional arrangements of a non-confrontational, non-judicial and consultative nature for reviewing compliance with the provisions of this Convention. These arrangements shall allow for appropriate public involvement and may include the option of considering communications from members of the public on matters related to this Convention.

Article 16

Settlement of disputes

1.   If a dispute arises between two or more Parties about the interpretation or application of this Convention, they shall seek a solution by negotiation or by any other means of dispute settlement acceptable to the parties to the dispute.

2.

(a)

submission of the dispute to the International Court of Justice;

(b)

arbitration in accordance with the procedure set out in Annex II.

3.   If the parties to the dispute have accepted both means of dispute settlement referred to in paragraph 2 above, the dispute may be submitted only to the International Court of Justice, unless the parties agree otherwise.

Article 17

Signature

This Convention shall be open for signature at Aarhus (Denmark) on 25 June 1998, and thereafter at United Nations Headquarters in New York until 21 December 1998, by States' members of the Economic Commission for Europe as well as States having consultative status with the Economic Commission for Europe pursuant to paragraphs 8 and 11 of Economic and Social Council Resolution 36 (IV) of 28 March 1947, and by regional economic integration organisations constituted by sovereign States' members of the Economic Commission for Europe to which their Member States have transferred competence over matters governed by this Convention, including the competence to enter into treaties in respect of these matters.

Article 18

Depositary

The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall act as the Depositary of this Convention.

Article 19

Ratification, acceptance, approval and accession

1.   This Convention shall be subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by signatory States and regional economic integration organisations.

2.   This Convention shall be open for accession as from 22 December 1998 by the States and regional economic integration organisations referred to in Article 17.

3.   Any other State, not referred to in paragraph 2 above, that is a Member of the United Nations may accede to the Convention upon approval by the Meeting of the Parties.

4.   Any organisation referred to in Article 17 which becomes a Party to this Convention without any of its Member States being a Party shall be bound by all the obligations under this Convention. If one or more of such an organisation's Member States is a Party to this Convention, the organisation and its Member States shall decide on their respective responsibilities for the performance of their obligations under this Convention. In such cases, the organisation and the Member States shall not be entitled to exercise rights under this Convention concurrently.

5.   In their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, the regional economic integration organisations referred to in Article 17 shall declare the extent of their competence with respect to the matters governed by this Convention. These organisations shall also inform the Depositary of any substantial modification to the extent of their competence.

Article 20

Entry into force

1.   This Convention shall enter into force on the 90th day after the date of deposit of the 16th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

2.   For the purposes of paragraph 1 above, any instrument deposited by a regional economic integration organisation shall not be counted as additional to those deposited by States members of such an organisation.

3.   For each State or organisation referred to in Article 17 which ratifies, accepts or approves this Convention or accedes thereto after the deposit of the sixteenth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, the Convention shall enter into force on the 90th day after the date of deposit by such State or organisation of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Article 21

Withdrawal

At any time after three years from the date on which this Convention has come into force with respect to a Party, that Party may withdraw from the Convention by giving written notification to the Depositary. Any such withdrawal shall take effect on the 90th day after the date of its receipt by the Depositary.

Article 22

Authentic texts

The original of this Convention, of which the English, French and Russian texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, being duly authorised thereto, have signed this Convention.

DONE at Aarhus (Denmark), this twenty-fifth day of June, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight.


CONVENTION ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION, PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN DECISION‐MAKING AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS

done at Aarhus, Denmark, on 25 June 1998

The Parties to this Convention,

Recalling principle l of the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment,

Recalling also principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,

Recalling further General Assembly resolutions 37/7 of 28 October 1982 on the World Charter for Nature and 45/94 of 14 December 1990 on the need to ensure a healthy environment for the well-being of individuals,

Recalling the European Charter on Environment and Health adopted at the First European Conference on Environment and Health of the World Health Organization in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, on 8 December 1989,

Affirming the need to protect, preserve and improve the state of the environment and to ensure sustainable and environmentally sound development,

Recognising that adequate protection of the environment is essential to human well-being and the enjoyment of basic human rights, including the right to life itself,

Recognising also that every person has the right to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, and the duty, both individually and in association with others, to protect and improve the environment for the benefit of present and future generations,

Considering that, to be able to assert this right and observe this duty, citizens must have access to information, be entitled to participate in decision-making and have access to justice in environmental matters, and acknowledging in this regard that citizens may need assistance in order to exercise their rights,

Recognising that, in the field of the environment, improved access to information and public participation in decision-making enhance the quality and the implementation of decisions, contribute to public awareness of environmental issues, give the public the opportunity to express its concerns and enable public authorities to take due account of such concerns,

Aiming thereby to further the accountability of and transparency in decision-making and to strengthen public support for decisions on the environment,

Recognising the desirability of transparency in all branches of government and inviting legislative bodies to implement the principles of this Convention in their proceedings,

Recognising also that the public needs to be aware of the procedures for participation in environmental decision-making, have free access to them and know how to use them,

Recognising further the importance of the respective roles that individual citizens, non-governmental organisations and the private sector can play in environmental protection,

Desiring to promote environmental education to further the understanding of the environment and sustainable development and to encourage widespread public awareness of, and participation in, decisions affecting the environment and sustainable development,

Noting, in this context, the importance of making use of the media and of electronic or other, future forms of communication,

Recognising the importance of fully integrating environmental considerations in governmental decision-making and the consequent need for public authorities to be in possession of accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date environmental information,

Acknowledging that public authorities hold environmental information in the public interest,

Concerned that effective judicial mechanisms should be accessible to the public, including organisations, so that its legitimate interests are protected and the law is enforced,

Noting the importance of adequate product information being provided to consumers to enable them to make informed environmental choices,

Recognising the concern of the public about the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment and the need for increased transparency and greater public participation in decision-making in this field,

Convinced that the implementation of this Convention will contribute to strengthening democracy in the region of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE),

Conscious of the role played in this respect by ECE and recalling, inter alia, the ECE Guidelines on Access to Environmental Information and Public Participation in Environmental Decision-making endorsed in the Ministerial Declaration adopted at the Third Ministerial Conference ‘Environment for Europe’ in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 25 October 1995,

Bearing in mind the relevant provisions in the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, done at Espoo, Finland, on 25 February 1991, and the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents and the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, both done at Helsinki on 17 March 1992, and other regional conventions,

Conscious that the adoption of this Convention will have contributed to the further strengthening of the ‘Environment for Europe’ process and to the results of the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Aarhus, Denmark, in June 1998,

HAVE AGREED AS FOLLOWS:

Article 1

Objective

In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each Party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

Article 2

Definitions

For the purposes of this Convention,

1.

‘Party’ means, unless the text otherwise indicates, a Contracting Party to this Convention;

2.

‘Public authority’ means:

(a)

government at national, regional and other level;

(b)

natural or legal persons performing public administrative functions under national law, including specific duties, activities or services in relation to the environment;

(c)

any other natural or legal persons having public responsibilities or functions, or providing public services, in relation to the environment, under the control of a body or person falling within subparagraphs (a) or (b) above;

(d)

the institutions of any regional economic integration organisation referred to in Article 17 which is a Party to this Convention.

This definition does not include bodies or institutions acting in a judicial or legislative capacity;

3.

‘Environmental information’ means any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form on:

(a)

the state of elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms, and the interaction among these elements;

(b)

factors, such as substances, energy, noise and radiation, and activities or measures, including administrative measures, environmental agreements, policies, legislation, plans and programmes, affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment within the scope of subparagraph(a) above, and cost-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used in environmental decision-making;

(c)

the state of human health and safety, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures, inasmuch as they are or may be affected by the state of the elements of the environment or, through these elements, by the factors, activities or measures referred to in subparagraph (b) above;

4.

‘The public’ means one or more natural or legal persons, and, in accordance with national legislation or practice, their associations, organisations or groups;

5.

‘The public concerned’ means the public affected or likely to be affected by, or having an interest in, the environmental decision-making; for the purposes of this definition, non-governmental organisations promoting environmental protection and meeting any requirements under national law shall be deemed to have an interest.

Article 3

General provisions

1.   Each Party shall take the necessary legislative, regulatory and other measures, including measures to achieve compatibility between the provisions implementing the information, public participation and access-to-justice provisions in this Convention, as well as proper enforcement measures, to establish and maintain a clear, transparent and consistent framework to implement the provisions of this Convention.

2.   Each Party shall endeavour to ensure that officials and authorities assist and provide guidance to the public in seeking access to information, in facilitating participation in decision-making and in seeking access to justice in environmental matters.

3.   Each Party shall promote environmental education and environmental awareness among the public, especially on how to obtain access to information, to participate in decision-making and to obtain access to justice in environmental matters.

4.   Each Party shall provide for appropriate recognition of and support to associations, organisations or groups promoting environmental protection and ensure that its national legal system is consistent with this obligation.

5.   The provisions of this Convention shall not affect the right of a Party to maintain or introduce measures providing for broader access to information, more extensive public participation in decision-making and wider access to justice in environmental matters than required by this Convention.

6.   This Convention shall not require any derogation from existing rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.

7.   Each Party shall promote the application of the principles of this Convention in international environmental decision-making processes and within the framework of international organisations in matters relating to the environment.

8.   Each Party shall ensure that persons exercising their rights in conformity with the provisions of this Convention shall not be penalised, persecuted or harassed in any way for their involvement. This provision shall not affect the powers of national courts to award reasonable costs in judicial proceedings.

9.   Within the scope of the relevant provisions of this Convention, the public shall have access to information, have the possibility to participate in decision-making and have access to justice in environmental matters without discrimination as to citizenship, nationality or domicile and, in the case of a legal person, without discrimination as to where it has its registered seat or an effective centre of its activities.

Article 4

Access to environmental information

1.

(a)

without an interest having to be stated;

(b)

in the form requested unless:

(i)

it is reasonable for the public authority to make it available in another form, in which case reasons shall be given for making it available in that form; or

(ii)

the information is already publicly available in another form.

2.   The environmental information referred to in paragraph 1 above shall be made available as soon as possible and at the latest within one month after the request has been submitted, unless the volume and the complexity of the information justify an extension of this period up to two months after the request. The applicant shall be informed of any extension and of the reasons justifying it.

3.

(a)

the public authority to which the request is addressed does not hold the environmental information requested;

(b)

the request is manifestly unreasonable or formulated in too general a manner; or

(c)

the request concerns material in the course of completion or concerns internal communications of public authorities where such an exemption is provided for in national law or customary practice, taking into account the public interest served by disclosure.

4.   A request for environmental information may be refused if the disclosure would adversely affect:

(a)

the confidentiality of the proceedings of public authorities, where such confidentiality is provided for under national law;

(b)

international relations, national defence or public security;

(c)

the course of justice, the ability of a person to receive a fair trial or the ability of a public authority to conduct an enquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature;

(d)

the confidentiality of commercial and industrial information, where such confidentiality is protected by law in order to protect a legitimate economic interest. Within this framework, information on emissions which is relevant for the protection of the environment shall be disclosed;

(e)

intellectual property rights;

(f)

the confidentiality of personal data and/or files relating to a natural person where that person has not consented to the disclosure of the information to the public, where such confidentiality is provided for in national law;

(g)

the interests of a third party which has supplied the information requested without that party being under or capable of being put under a legal obligation to do so, and where that party does not consent to the release of the material; or

(h)

the environment to which the information relates, such as the breeding sites of rare species.

The aforementioned grounds for refusal shall be interpreted in a restrictive way, taking into account the public interest served by disclosure and taking into account whether the information requested relates to emissions into the environment.

5.   Where a public authority does not hold the environmental information requested, this public authority shall, as promptly as possible, inform the applicant of the public authority to which it believes it is possible to apply for the information requested or transfer the request to that authority and inform the applicant accordingly.

6.   Each Party shall ensure that, if information exempted from disclosure under paragraphs 3(c) and 4 above can be separated out without prejudice to the confidentiality of the information exempted, public authorities make available the remainder of the environmental information that has been requested.

7.   A refusal of a request shall be in writing if the request was in writing or the applicant so requests. A refusal shall state the reasons for the refusal and give information on access to the review procedure provided for in accordance with Article 9. The refusal shall be made as soon as possible and at the latest within one month, unless the complexity of the information justifies an extension of this period up to two months after the request. The applicant shall be informed of any extension and of the reasons justifying it.

8.   Each Party may allow its public authorities to make a charge for supplying information, but such charge shall not exceed a reasonable amount.

Public authorities intending to make such a charge for supplying information shall make available to applicants a schedule of charges which may be levied, indicating the circumstances in which they may be levied or waived and when the supply of information is conditional on the advance payment of such a charge.

Article 5

Collection and dissemination of environmental information

1.

(a)

public authorities possess and update environmental information which is relevant to their functions;

(b)

mandatory systems are established so that there is an adequate flow of information to public authorities about proposed and existing activities which may significantly affect the environment;

(c)

in the event of any imminent threat to human health or the environment, whether caused by human activities or due to natural causes, all information which could enable the public to take measures to prevent or mitigate harm arising from the threat and is held by a public authority is disseminated immediately and without delay to members of the public who may be affected.

inter alia

(a)

providing sufficient information to the public about the type and scope of environmental information held by the relevant public authorities, the basic terms and conditions under which such information is made available and accessible, and the process by which it can be obtained;

(b)

establishing and maintaining practical arrangements, such as:

(i)

publicly accessible lists, registers or files;

(ii)

requiring officials to support the public in seeking access to information under this Convention; and

(iii)

the identification of points of contact; and

(c)

providing access to the environmental information contained in lists, registers or files as referred to in subparagraph (b) (i) above free of charge.

3.

(a)

reports on the state of the environment, as referred to in paragraph 4 below;

(b)

texts of legislation on or relating to the environment;

(c)

as appropriate, policies, plans and programmes on or relating to the environment, and environmental agreements; and

(d)

other information, to the extent that the availability of such information in this form would facilitate the application of national law implementing this Convention, provided that such information is already available in electronic form.

4.   Each Party shall, at regular intervals not exceeding three or four years, publish and disseminate a national report on the state of the environment, including information on the quality of the environment and information on pressures on the environment.

inter alia

(a)

legislation and policy documents such as documents on strategies, policies, programmes and action plans relating to the environment, and progress reports on their implementation, prepared at various levels of government;

(b)

international treaties, conventions and agreements on environmental issues; and

(c)

other significant international documents on environmental issues, as appropriate.

6.   Each Party shall encourage operators whose activities have a significant impact on the environment to inform the public regularly of the environmental impact of their activities and products, where appropriate within the framework of voluntary eco-labelling or eco-auditing schemes or by other means.

7.

(a)

publish the facts and analyses of facts which it considers relevant and important in framing major environmental policy proposals;

(b)

publish, or otherwise make accessible, available explanatory material on its dealings with the public in matters falling within the scope of this Convention; and

(c)

provide in an appropriate form information on the performance of public functions or the provision of public services relating to the environment by government at all levels.

8.   Each Party shall develop mechanisms with a view to ensuring that sufficient product information is made available to the public in a manner which enables consumers to make informed environmental choices.

9.   Each Party shall take steps to establish progressively, taking into account international processes where appropriate, a coherent, nationwide system of pollution inventories or registers on a structured, computerised and publicly accessible database compiled through standardised reporting. Such a system may include inputs, releases and transfers of a specified range of substances and products, including water, energy and resource use, from a specified range of activities to environmental media and to on-site and off-site treatment and disposal sites.

10.   Nothing in this article may prejudice the right of Parties to refuse to disclose certain environmental information in accordance with Article 4(3) and (4).

Article 6

Public participation in decisions on specific activities

1.

(a)

shall apply the provisions of this article with respect to decisions on whether to permit proposed activities listed in Annex I;

(b)

shall, in accordance with its national law, also apply the provisions of this article to decisions on proposed activities not listed in Annex I which may have a significant effect on the environment. To this end, Parties shall determine whether such a proposed activity is subject to these provisions; and

(c)

may decide, on a case-by-case basis if so provided under national law, not to apply the provisions of this article to proposed activities serving national defence purposes, if that Party deems that such application would have an adverse effect on these purposes.

inter alia

(a)

the proposed activity and the application on which a decision will be taken;

(b)

the nature of possible decisions or the draft decision;

(c)

the public authority responsible for making the decision;

(d)

the envisaged procedure, including, as and when this information can be provided:

(i)

the commencement of the procedure;

(ii)

the opportunities for the public to participate;

(iii)

the time and venue of any envisaged public hearing;

(iv)

an indication of the public authority from which relevant information can be obtained and where the relevant information has been deposited for examination by the public;

(v)

an indication of the relevant public authority or any other official body to which comments or questions can be submitted and of the time schedule for transmittal of comments or questions; and

(vi)

an indication of what environmental information relevant to the proposed activity is available; and

(e)

the fact that the activity is subject to a national or transboundary environmental impact assessment procedure.

3.   The public participation procedures shall include reasonable time-frames for the different phases, allowing sufficient time for informing the public in accordance with paragraph 2 above and for the public to prepare and participate effectively during the environmental decision-making.

4.   Each Party shall provide for early public participation, when all options are open and effective public participation can take place.

5.   Each Party should, where appropriate, encourage prospective applicants to identify the public concerned, to enter into discussions, and to provide information regarding the objectives of their application before applying for a permit.

6.

(a)

a description of the site and the physical and technical characteristics of the proposed activity, including an estimate of the expected residues and emissions;

(b)

a description of the significant effects of the proposed activity on the environment;

(c)

a description of the measures envisaged to prevent and/or reduce the effects, including emissions;

(d)

a non-technical summary of the above;

(e)

an outline of the main alternatives studied by the applicant; and

(f)

in accordance with national legislation, the main reports and advice issued to the public authority at the time when the public concerned shall be informed in accordance with paragraph 2 above.

7.   Procedures for public participation shall allow the public to submit, in writing or, as appropriate, at a public hearing or inquiry with the applicant, any comments, information, analyses or opinions that it considers relevant to the proposed activity.

8.   Each Party shall ensure that in the decision due account is taken of the outcome of the public participation.

9.   Each Party shall ensure that, when the decision has been taken by the public authority, the public is promptly informed of the decision in accordance with the appropriate procedures. Each Party shall make accessible to the public the text of the decision along with the reasons and considerations on which the decision is based.

10.   Each Party shall ensure that, when a public authority reconsiders or updates the operating conditions for an activity referred to in paragraph 1, the provisions of paragraphs 2 to 9 of this Article are applied mutatis mutandis, and where appropriate.

11.   Each Party shall, within the framework of its national law, apply, to the extent feasible and appropriate, provisions of this article to decisions on whether to permit the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment.

Article 7

Public participation concerning plans, programmes and policies relating to the environment

Each Party shall make appropriate practical and/or other provisions for the public to participate during the preparation of plans and programmes relating to the environment, within a transparent and fair framework, having provided the necessary information to the public. Within this framework, Article 6(3), (4) and (8), shall be applied. The public which may participate shall be identified by the relevant public authority, taking into account the objectives of this Convention. To the extent appropriate, each Party shall endeavour to provide opportunities for public participation in the preparation of policies relating to the environment.

Article 8

Public participation during the preparation of executive regulations and/or generally applicable legally binding normative instruments

Each Party shall strive to promote effective public participation at an appropriate stage, and while options are still open, during the preparation by public authorities of executive regulations and other generally applicable legally binding rules that may have a significant effect on the environment.

To this end, the following steps should be taken:

(a)

time-frames sufficient for effective participation should be fixed;

(b)

draft rules should be published or otherwise made publicly available; and

(c)

the public should be given the opportunity to comment, directly or through representative consultative bodies.

The result of the public participation shall be taken into account as far as possible.

Article 9

Access to justice

1.   Each Party shall, within the framework of its national legislation, ensure that any person who considers that his or her request for information under Article 4 has been ignored, wrongfully refused, whether in part or in full, inadequately answered, or otherwise not dealt with in accordance with the provisions of that article, has access to a review procedure before a court of law or another independent and impartial body established by law.

In the circumstances where a Party provides for such a review by a court of law, it shall ensure that such a person also has access to an expeditious procedure established by law that is free of charge or inexpensive for reconsideration by a public authority or review by an independent and impartial body other than a court of law.

Final decisions under this paragraph 1 shall be binding on the public authority holding the information. Reasons shall be stated in writing, at least where access to information is refused under this paragraph.

2.   Each Party shall, within the framework of its national legislation, ensure that members of the public concerned:

(a)

having a sufficient interest or, alternatively,

(b)

maintaining impairment of a right, where the administrative procedural law of a Party requires this as a precondition, have access to a review procedure before a court of law and/or another independent and impartial body established by law, to challenge the substantive and procedural legality of any decision, act or omission subject to the provisions of Article 6 and, where so provided for under national law and without prejudice to paragraph 3 below, of other relevant provisions of this Convention.

What constitutes a sufficient interest and impairment of a right shall be determined in accordance with the requirements of national law and consistently with the objective of giving the public concerned wide access to justice within the scope of this Convention. To this end, the interest of any non-governmental organisation meeting the requirements referred to in Article 2(5), shall be deemed sufficient for the purpose of subparagraph (a) above. Such organisations shall also be deemed to have rights capable of being impaired for the purpose of subparagraph (b) above.

The provisions of this paragraph 2 shall not exclude the possibility of a preliminary review procedure before an administrative authority and shall not affect the requirement of exhaustion of administrative review procedures prior to recourse to judicial review procedures, where such a requirement exists under national law.

3.   In addition and without prejudice to the review procedures referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 above, each Party shall ensure that, where they meet the criteria, if any, laid down in its national law, members of the public have access to administrative or judicial procedures to challenge acts and omissions by private persons and public authorities which contravene provisions of its national law relating to the environment.

4.   In addition and without prejudice to paragraph 1 above, the procedures referred to in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 above shall provide adequate and effective remedies, including injunctive relief as appropriate, and be fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive. Decisions under this Article shall be given or recorded in writing. Decisions of courts, and whenever possible of other bodies, shall be publicly accessible.

5.   In order to further the effectiveness of the provisions of this article, each Party shall ensure that information is provided to the public on access to administrative and judicial review procedures and shall consider the establishment of appropriate assistance mechanisms to remove or reduce financial and other barriers to access to justice.

Article 10

Meeting of the parties

1.   The first meeting of the Parties shall be convened no later than one year after the date of the entry into force of this Convention. Thereafter, an ordinary meeting of the Parties shall be held at least once every two years, unless otherwise decided by the Parties, or at the written request of any Party, provided that, within six months of the request being communicated to all Parties by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, the said request is supported by at least one third of the Parties.

2.

(a)

review the policies for and legal and methodological approaches to access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, with a view to further improving them;

(b)

exchange information regarding experience gained in concluding and implementing bilateral and multilateral agreements or other arrangements having relevance to the purposes of this Convention and to which one or more of the Parties are a party;

(c)

seek, where appropriate, the services of relevant ECE bodies and other competent international bodies and specific committees in all aspects pertinent to the achievement of the purposes of this Convention;

(d)

establish any subsidiary bodies as they deem necessary;

(e)

prepare, where appropriate, protocols to this Convention;

(f)

consider and adopt proposals for amendments to this Convention in accordance with the provisions of Article 14;

(g)

consider and undertake any additional action that may be required for the achievement of the purposes of this Convention;

(h)

at their first meeting, consider and by consensus adopt rules of procedure for their meetings and the meetings of subsidiary bodies;

(i)

at their first meeting, review their experience in implementing the provisions of Article 5, paragraph 9, and consider what steps are necessary to develop further the system referred to in that paragraph, taking into account international processes and developments, including the elaboration of an appropriate instrument concerning pollution release and transfer registers or inventories which could be annexed to this Convention.

3.   The Meeting of the Parties may, as necessary, consider establishing financial arrangements on a consensus basis.

4.   The United Nations, its specialised agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as any State or regional economic integration organisation entitled under Article 17 to sign this Convention but which is not a Party to this Convention, and any intergovernmental organisation qualified in the fields to which this Convention relates, shall be entitled to participate as observers in the meetings of the Parties.

5.   Any non-governmental organisation, qualified in the fields to which this Convention relates, which has informed the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe of its wish to be represented at a meeting of the Parties shall be entitled to participate as an observer unless at least one third of the Parties present in the meeting raise objections.

6.   For the purposes of paragraphs 4 and 5 above, the rules of procedure referred to in paragraph 2(h) above shall provide for practical arrangements for the admittance procedure and other relevant terms.

Article 11

Right to vote

1.   Except as provided for in paragraph 2 below, each Party to this Convention shall have one vote.

2.   Regional economic integration organisations, in matters within their competence, shall exercise their right to vote with a number of votes equal to the number of their Member States which are Parties to this Convention. Such organisations shall not exercise their right to vote if their Member States exercise theirs, and vice versa.

Article 12

Secretariat

(a)

the convening and preparing of meetings of the Parties;

(b)

the transmission to the Parties of reports and other information received in accordance with the provisions of this Convention; and

(c)

such other functions as may be determined by the Parties.

Article 13

Annexes

The annexes to this Convention shall constitute an integral part thereof.

Article 14

Amendments to the Convention

1.   Any Party may propose amendments to this Convention.

2.   The text of any proposed amendment to this Convention shall be submitted in writing to the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, who shall communicate it to all Parties at least 90 days before the meeting of the Parties at which it is proposed for adoption.

3.   The Parties shall make every effort to reach agreement on any proposed amendment to this Convention by consensus. If all efforts at consensus have been exhausted, and no agreement reached, the amendment shall as a last resort be adopted by a three-quarter majority vote of the Parties present and voting at the meeting.

4.   Amendments to this Convention adopted in accordance with paragraph 3 above shall be communicated by the Depositary to all Parties for ratification, approval or acceptance. Amendments to this Convention other than those to an annex shall enter into force for Parties having ratified, approved or accepted them on the 90th day after the receipt by the Depositary of notification of their ratification, approval or acceptance by at least three fourths of these Parties. Thereafter they shall enter into force for any other Party on the 90th day after that Party deposits its instrument of ratification, approval or acceptance of the amendments.

5.   Party that is unable to approve an amendment to an annex to this Convention shall so notify the Depositary in writing within 12 months from the date of the communication of the adoption. The Depositary shall without delay notify all Parties of any such notification received. A Party may at any time substitute an acceptance for its previous notification and, upon deposit of an instrument of acceptance with the Depositary, the amendments to such an annex shall become effective for that Party.

6.   On the expiry of 12 months from the date of its communication by the Depositary as provided for in paragraph 4 above an amendment to an annex shall become effective for those Parties which have not submitted a notification to the Depositary in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 5 above, provided that not more than one third of the Parties have submitted such a notification.

7.   For the purposes of this Article, ‘Parties present and voting’ means Parties present and casting an affirmative or negative vote.

Article 15

Review of compliance

The Meeting of the Parties shall establish, on a consensus basis, optional arrangements of a non-confrontational, non-judicial and consultative nature for reviewing compliance with the provisions of this Convention. These arrangements shall allow for appropriate public involvement and may include the option of considering communications from members of the public on matters related to this Convention.

Article 16

Settlement of disputes

1.   If a dispute arises between two or more Parties about the interpretation or application of this Convention, they shall seek a solution by negotiation or by any other means of dispute settlement acceptable to the parties to the dispute.

2.

(a)

submission of the dispute to the International Court of Justice;

(b)

arbitration in accordance with the procedure set out in Annex II.

3.   If the parties to the dispute have accepted both means of dispute settlement referred to in paragraph 2 above, the dispute may be submitted only to the International Court of Justice, unless the parties agree otherwise.

Article 17

Signature

This Convention shall be open for signature at Aarhus (Denmark) on 25 June 1998, and thereafter at United Nations Headquarters in New York until 21 December 1998, by States' members of the Economic Commission for Europe as well as States having consultative status with the Economic Commission for Europe pursuant to paragraphs 8 and 11 of Economic and Social Council Resolution 36 (IV) of 28 March 1947, and by regional economic integration organisations constituted by sovereign States' members of the Economic Commission for Europe to which their Member States have transferred competence over matters governed by this Convention, including the competence to enter into treaties in respect of these matters.

Article 18

Depositary

The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall act as the Depositary of this Convention.

Article 19

Ratification, acceptance, approval and accession

1.   This Convention shall be subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by signatory States and regional economic integration organisations.

2.   This Convention shall be open for accession as from 22 December 1998 by the States and regional economic integration organisations referred to in Article 17.

3.   Any other State, not referred to in paragraph 2 above, that is a Member of the United Nations may accede to the Convention upon approval by the Meeting of the Parties.

4.   Any organisation referred to in Article 17 which becomes a Party to this Convention without any of its Member States being a Party shall be bound by all the obligations under this Convention. If one or more of such an organisation's Member States is a Party to this Convention, the organisation and its Member States shall decide on their respective responsibilities for the performance of their obligations under this Convention. In such cases, the organisation and the Member States shall not be entitled to exercise rights under this Convention concurrently.

5.   In their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, the regional economic integration organisations referred to in Article 17 shall declare the extent of their competence with respect to the matters governed by this Convention. These organisations shall also inform the Depositary of any substantial modification to the extent of their competence.

Article 20

Entry into force

1.   This Convention shall enter into force on the 90th day after the date of deposit of the 16th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

2.   For the purposes of paragraph 1 above, any instrument deposited by a regional economic integration organisation shall not be counted as additional to those deposited by States members of such an organisation.

3.   For each State or organisation referred to in Article 17 which ratifies, accepts or approves this Convention or accedes thereto after the deposit of the sixteenth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, the Convention shall enter into force on the 90th day after the date of deposit by such State or organisation of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Article 21

Withdrawal

At any time after three years from the date on which this Convention has come into force with respect to a Party, that Party may withdraw from the Convention by giving written notification to the Depositary. Any such withdrawal shall take effect on the 90th day after the date of its receipt by the Depositary.

Article 22

Authentic texts

The original of this Convention, of which the English, French and Russian texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, being duly authorised thereto, have signed this Convention.

DONE at Aarhus (Denmark), this twenty-fifth day of June, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight.

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