The ability or right to obtain or make use of a commodity or process. In the context of this report, “access” refers to the ability or right to obtain or make use of information, opportunities for participation, and mechanisms for justice in official decisions.

Access Initiative, The

The world’s largest civil society network working to ensure that people have the right and ability to influence decisions about the natural resources that sustain their communities.

Synonyms: access initiative, Initiativa Accesso, TAI, The Access Initiative
Access Principles

Refers to the three cornerstones of The Access Initiative: access to information, participation, and access to justice.

Access Rights

The rights of citizens to information, participation and justice in environmental decision-making. See also “access principles.”

Access To Information

The ability of citizens to obtain environmental information in the possession of public authorities. “Environmental information” includes information about air and water quality and information about whether any hazardous chemicals are stored at a nearby factory.

Access To Justice

The ability of citizens to turn to impartial and independent arbiters to resolve disputes over access to information and participation in decisions that affect the environment, or to correct environmental harm. Such impartial arbiters include mediators, administrative tribunals, and courts of law, among others.

Synonyms: justice
Advisory Group

For the purposes of this report, a selection of individuals representing both civil society and government that oversees, reviews, and helps to guide a TAI assessment in a given country. It is the responsibility of the TAI Coalition within a country to invite individuals to serve on the advisory group/panel.

Synonyms: Advisory Panel

The act of assessing; appraisal. In the context of this report, “assessment” refers to the process of measuring a country’s performance in providing access to information, participation, and justice, including collecting data to answer selected research questions. The term also refers to the product of such research - as in, “once a team has completed an assessment, they should submit it to The Access Initiative.” 

Capacity Building

The efforts to improve a country’s human, scientific, technological, organizational, institutional, and resource capabilities. According to Agenda 21, capacity building consists of mechanisms, efforts, or conditions which enhance effective and meaningful public participation in decisions affecting the environment. Types of capacity building include educating civil servants to implement access rights, creating a supportive legal and administrative situation for civil society organizations, and ensuring Internet access for the general public.

Case Study

In TAI assessments, “case study” refers to a study of an example used for assessing specific laws and government effort and effectiveness in providing access to information, participation, or access to justice. A case study may be about an event (such as an environmental emergency), a decision-making process (such as development of an environmental impact assessment), or a particular judicial claim. Case studies are also referred to as “cases.” They each are examined using a prescribed set of TAI indicators.

Synonyms: case studies
Civil Society Organization

Civil Society Organizations include organizations that are neither part of the private (for profit) nor governmental sectors. They include nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs).

Synonyms: Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, Civil Society Organisation, Civil Society Organisations

State of keeping information secret.

Environmental Governance

The range of institutions and decision-making processes (including but not limited to governments) engaged in managing the environment and natural resources. For further definitions see the section entitled “Environmental Governance and Environmental Democracy” in Chapter 1 of Voice and Choice.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

The systematic examination of the likely impacts of proposed development on the environment prior to any activity, including an evaluation of environmentally less damaging alternatives to such development.

Synonyms: EIA
Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA)

A law or regulation governing the right of access to government held information, limits to that right, mechanisms for exercising that right, and mechanisms for resolving disputes around the exercise of that right. Many countries have enacted FOIAs described by various titles.

Synonyms: FOIA

Governance is about the process of making decisions. It is about the exercise of authority; about being “in charge.” It relates to decision-makers at all levels–government managers and ministers, business people, property owners, farmers, and consumers. In short, it deals with who is responsible, how they wield their power, and how they are held accountable. For further definitions see the section entitled “Environmental Governance and Environmental Democracy” in Chapter 1 of Voice and Choice.


Inclusiveness is a state in which all persons interested in or affected by a decision or decision-making process have the political space to participate in and influence the outcome.


Knowledge of a specific event or situation; intelligence; a collection of facts or data. “Information” refers to facts, knowledge, explanations, justifications, data, and resources on environmental factors, including air and water quality, environmental emergencies, general environmental trends, facilities and their environmental impacts, and plans or programs affecting natural resources.

Nongovernmental Organization

Any civil organization or group, including voluntary groups, community groups, charities, trade unions, campaigns, and almost any other group that is not part of the government. Businesses and other profit-making entities are not included in this definition. While not exclusive of local efforts, NGO has a connotation of meso- and international-level activism and association in contrast to community-based organizations.

Synonyms: NGO, NGOs, Nongovernmental Organizations, Nongovernmental Organisation

The act of taking part or sharing in something. “Participation” refers to informed, timely and meaningful input and influence in decisions on general policies, strategies, and plans at various levels and on individual projects that have environmental impacts. See Table 2.2 of Voice and Choice for types of participation.

Partnership For Principle 10

A new initiative developed as an outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002. The Partnership for Principle 10 provides a way for governments, civil society organizations, and international organizations to work together to implement practical solutions to provide the public with access to information, participation, and justice for environmentally sustainable decisions. See also Appendix 1 of Voice and Choice for a more detailed description of PP10.

Synonyms: PP10
Pollutant Release And Transfer Register (PRTR)

A PRTR is an environmental database or inventory of potentially harmful releases to air, water, and soil as well as wastes transported off site for treatment or disposal.

Principle 10

Part of the Rio Declaration made at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. Principle 10 embodies the ideals of the Access Initiative and is the foundation of the Aarhus Convention (UNECE) and the Partnership for Principle 10. Principle 10 states: “Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided”


Refers to the people or any individual, alone, with others, or as one of a community.


The means of seeking relief or remedy. Redress is associated with procedural justice.


Sanguine   /ˈsæŋgwɪn/ Spelled Pronunciation [sang-gwin]

–adjective 1. cheerfully optimistic, hopeful, or confident: a sanguine disposition; sanguine expectations.
2. reddish; ruddy: a sanguine complexion.
3. (in old physiology) having blood as the predominating humor and consequently being ruddy-faced, cheerful, etc. 4. bloody; sanguinary. 5. blood-red; red. 6. Heraldry. a reddish-purple tincture. –noun 7. a red iron-oxide crayon used in making drawings.

Origin: 1275–1325; ME sanguyne a blood-red cloth < OF sanguin < L sanguineus bloody, equiv. to sanguin-, s. of sanguis blood + -eus -eous

Synonyms: enthusiastic

The legal right to pursue a claim before a judicial, administrative, or alternative forum.

Synonyms: Legal Standing, Locus Standi

See Access Initiative, The in glossary.

Synonyms: The Access Initiative, Access Initiative
TAI Assessment

“TAI Assessment” refers to the process of ranking a country’s performance in providing access to information, participation, and justice, including collecting data to answer selected research questions. The term also refers to the product of such research–as in, “once a team has completed an assessment, they should submit it to The Access Initiative”.

TAI Method

“TAI method” refers to the framework of research questions, indicators, and research tools (including guidelines on source selection and documentation) used to conduct a TAI national assessment of access to information, participation, justice, and capacity building.


The quality or state of being transparent. Transparency refers to the sharing of information and acting in an open and accountable manner. Transparency allows stakeholders to gather information that may be critical to uncovering abuses and defending their interests. Transparent systems have clear procedures for public decision-making and open channels of communication among stakeholders and officials, and make a wide range of information accessible.

Voice And Choice: Opening The Door To Environmental Democracy

A book published by the World Resources Institute in June 2008. It was based on research done by The Access Initiative partners from 26 countries and on academic literature current at the time. The full text and executive summary versions can be found here:

Synonyms: Voice and Choice