Change That Matters

New International Guidelines on Principle 10

The Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reached a major milestone in implementing Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration. Delegates agreed to adopt the guidelines for national legislation on “access” -access to information, public participation, and access to justice. TAI contributed significantly to this outcome, helping to convince members of the Governing Council to formally adopt, rather than merely “note” the guidelines. As a result, UNEP has a mandate to promote the implementation of the guidelines.

Incorporation of Access Rights into Constitutional Provisions

Bolivia passed a new Constitution (2009) with several clauses addressing access to information, public participation, and access to justice. TAI partners led by PRODENA (Asociación Prodefensa de la Naturaleza) submitted a review of the draft of the new Constitution prior to its enactment, at the request of the Vice Ministry.

Access to Environmental Information

BOLIVIA: TAI Bolivia led by PRODENA worked closely with the government to create a National System of Environmental Information (NSEI) that will institutionalize the practice of making environmental information available to the public.

ECUADOR: TAI Ecuador partner, The Ecuadoran Center for Environmental Law (CEDA) promoted a national dialogue between citizens, the private sector, authorities, and NGOs working in the environmental field to draft a proposal for a national strategy on environmental information.

INDIA: TAI India led by Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) and Environics Trust won a legal victory in August 2008 stopping a public hearing on the construction of a proposed 3000 MW Hydel Power Dam to be located in Dibang District of Arunachal Pradesh.

MEXICO: For the last two years, Cultura Ecologica, TAI partners in Mexico, assisted in the creation and management of a transparency fair for Mexico City. At the fair, the three organs of Mexico City’s government, autonomous bodies and civil society organizations, committed to strengthening transparency in the nation’s capital as an instrument through which society can access information and influence public policy definition, and provide greater autonomy and budget to the Institute for Access to Public Information (InfoDF).

SRI LANKA: TAI Sri Lanka, lead by Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) worked tireless to ensure the passage and promotion of rules for the disclosure of environmental information in the Urban Sector. The Minister of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development officially issued the Directions on Information Disclosure in the Urban Sector on 15 September 2009. The directions were directly based on the recommendations of the TAI Assessment.

THAILAND: TAI Thailand’s lead partner Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) built a coalition of 36 organizations and had a consultation with key officials from the Office of the Official Information Commission (OIC) about ways to influence types of information related to environment and public health to be specified under the Official Information Act.

ZIMBABWE: TAI Zimbabwe’s lead partner Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) developed a set of guidelines which were submitted for adoption by the government’s environmental agency as a Communication Plan. The Plan touches on how the agency will communicate with its stakeholders and provides the key principles to promoting access to environmental information. Public Participation

CAMEROON: Cameroon TAI lead partner Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme, Cameroon (BDCPC) and government officials worked together to determine that a new framework for the EIA process was important to implement. Together with local communities, they developed a new framework in which the government agreed to involve marginalized groups (especially women) in policy making on biodiversity-related issues as well as EIAs.

CHILE: TAI Chile lead partner Corporacion Participa collaborated with local NGO MODEMA and other local organizations to prevent the establishment of a coal-fired power plant around Punta de Choros, using techniques from the TAI Advocacy Toolkit. Access to Justice

ARGENTINA: TAI Argentina partner, the foundation Center for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA), and the residents of Chakras de la Merced y Corazón de María filed an environmental compensation lawsuit in the civil and commercial court of Cordoba against the municipality of Cordoba making it responsible for the dumping of fecal matter which had been done for some time by the local sewage treatment plant “la Estación Depuradora de Liquidos Cloacales de Bajo Grande” (EDAR BAJO GRANDE).

CAMEROON: TAI Cameroon partner Foundation for Environment and Development (FEDEV) filed and won a number of precedent-setting high court cases. The cases dealt with illegal dumping by the Bamenda City Council and a permitting process for a quarry (by the China Bridge Company) that did not consult with the affected community. The court decisions recognized the right of the public to protect the environment by broadening legal standing to sue for environmental harms.

INDIA: The National Environmental Appellate Authority (NEAA) of India was an administrative court that heard appeals to certificates for development based on Environmental impact Assessments. The NEAA lacked qualified judges often siding with developers and government at the expense of community and civil society. TAI partners in India Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) challenged several of the NEAA decisions before the Delhi High Court and were victorious. The Court agreed with the criticisms leveled against the NEAA making obvious the need for far-reaching reforms of this Authority.

MALAWI: TAI Malawi partner Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA) worked diligently with the Government of Malawi to enhance access to environmental justice by facilitating the establishment of the Environmental Appeals Tribunal (EAT).

PARAGUAY: The Paraguayan Ombudsman’s Office, with the support of TAI Paraguay partner Instituto de Derecho y Economía Ambiental (IDEA), is taking a case against the Municipality of the City of San Lorenzo to the Supreme Court for denying access to its budget about the local dump, at the request of a citizen.

PHILIPPINES: In 2010, the Philippine Supreme Court established the world’s largest network of environmental courts. But environmental courts, if designed poorly, could actually hinder access to justice. Without fair, quick, and inexpensive procedures, the new courts could become just as ineffective as their precursors. After completing a TAI Assessment in 2007, TAI Philippines, a coalition of NGOs led by the Ateneo School of Government in Manila, worked closely with WRI to evaluate the specific problems faced by the poor in accessing government institutions -including the courts-for environmental concerns.