Implementation of Principle 10: The UN Environment Programme to Adopt Environmental Access Guidelines
From February 24 to 26, 2010 the United Nations Governing Council/Global Ministerial met in Bali for the 11th special session Environment Forum At the meeting, delegates adopted guidelines for the development of national legislation on access to information, public participation and access to justice. This is a major milestone for implementing Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Development and Environment.
This decision has three significant effects . First, it commits UNEP to continue advancing the implementation of Principle 10 at the national level. The agreement requires the Executive Director of UNEP to assist countries in implementing programs and policies around access to information, public participation, and access to justice. The guidelines cover key areas including freedom of information laws, state of the environment reporting, emergency planning and response, project planning, and environmental harms. Second, these guidelines will significantly strengthen the case that officials and civil society working at the national level can make to open information systems and decision-making processes. Third, it clarifies the minimum legal standards for implementation of Principle 10.
From late 2008 to the recent meeting in Bali, Access Initiative (TAI) partners took an active part in promoting the adoption of the guidelines . Partners encouraged their respective governments to recognize that access principles are the fundamental baseline for ensuring good environmental governance. In February 2009 at the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council meeting, TAI Partner Augustine Njamnshi, Executive Secretary Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme Cameroon & National Coordinator The Access Initiative Cameroon, represented TAI and it’s position for recognition of these rights. In November 2009, Carole Excell , TAI Partner and World Resources Institute Senior Associate, participated in the Nairobi Expert Meeting and made interventions that helped to revise the guidelines.
More formally, Lalanath de Silva , Director of The Access Initiative, drafted letters to the US Department of State and the US Environmental Protection Agency in support of adoption in which he wrote, “Given the Obama Administration’s stated goals of open and participatory government here in the USA, it would seem natural that the US government would strongly support these guidelines. With recent Executive Orders and Presidential statements, it is clear that the administration has quickly moved towards opening up government and bringing more citizens in. In this context, we ask you please to make a strong statement of support in favor of the “adoption” of these guidelines at the UNEP Governing Council Meeting and using your diplomatic and experience to convince other government delegations to support the adoption of these guidelines.“
At the recent meeting, Pray Prayekti, the Managing Director of Indonesia Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) attended on behalf of TAI to report on the debate and the process of debate. She noted that the guidelines were passed in part because the US delegate to the GC, in contrast to their prior position, pushed strongly for adoption of the guidelines and successfully persuaded holdout countries to move toward a consensus. The US representative commended UNEP for promoting the issues and argued that the guidelines would assist developing countries to pass legislation to implement Rio Principle 10. To our knowledge, no other US-based NGO pressed the US delegation on the issue of adoption. WRI was thanked in particular by staff of UNEP’s poverty and environment division for its work on the guidelines, “Thanks to you and your colleagues too for your support to the process. The decision has a clear mandate for UNEP to work with countries that wishes to use the guidelines for advancing their national legislation.”