Core Team Report to TAI Network
TAI partners have had tremendous success over the last two and a half years, which has resulted in citizens galvanizing support for constitutional change, winning new laws and rights of access to government information, facilitating key reforms and capacity building of judicial processes, development of new opportunities to participate in formerly closed decision-making processes, and the broadening of rights or standing to appear before the courts in environmental public interest cases.
Below are highlights from some of our most outstanding outcomes that have 1) shaped the future of the Network, 2) provided lessons to partners on scope and possibility of access work, and (3) helped protect the environment and preserve peoples’ livelihoods.
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. Beginning in January of 2009, the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Access Team worked both directly and with partners to persuade governments to push for “adoption” of the guidelines.
Additionally, staff wrote online articles informing access proponents of the opportunity. TAI partners from WRI, Cameroon and Indonesia participated in UNEP meetings on three separate occasions and helped shape the guidelines. Acknowledging TAIs role, UNEP’s poverty and environment division wrote “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. It will be interesting to see when things begin to move in this regards.”
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. Under Articles 21(6), Bolivians now have the right to access information, interpret, analyze, and communicate it freely, as an individual or as a group. 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. The review stated that access to information and public participation were adequately addressed in the proposed constitution, but that access to environmental justice should be added to the document. This recommendation was incorporated into the final version of the Constitution, which was ratified by the Congress in October 2008 and approved in a public referendum in January 2009.
The Constitution of 2009 established the country’s first environmental and agricultural court, giving citizens and communities a forum to air environmental grievances. The court may resolve cases related to agrarian actions, forestry, the environment, water, and rights of renewable natural resource use, such as water resources, forestry and biodiversity. These courts were put forward as a solution to address the failure to provide adequate access to justice by PRODENA.
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. The Ministry of the Environment and Water, in April 2009, opened a center to provide access to information on Environmental Quality. This Centre for the first time makes available to the public Environmental Impact Assessments and Environmental Licenses. Access to this information is vital for the communities to raise their voices and concerns about the projects that may impact their lives.
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. CEDA then drafted a national strategy proposal for access to environment information and submitted it for adoption by the Government.
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. For more than a year, local tribal communities have been protesting against the dam, touted to be among the highest in the country, on the ground that it would devastate the fragile ecology and destroy the culture and livelihood of the Idu Mishmi Community. When the first Public Hearing was announced, local tribal community sent a legal notice through LIFE requesting a postponement of the hearing in view of the fact that the Environment Impact Assessment Report was not available at designated places and only an electronic version was made available in a state where people hardly had access to Internet. The Government relented and directed that no Public Hearing be conducted till the required EIA Reports are made available at the designated places for access to the community.
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).This fair seeks to socialize the right of access to information and make bridge to other rights such as housing, health and education. The event presented a series of cultural, artistic, health and recreational activities and guidance from local and federal government agencies.
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. This is the first time that such directions were issued on information disclosure. PILF facilitated the process of making the ministerial directions, held two training workshops on the directions and its implementation for the staff of relevant agencies. PILF is also carrying out a pilot project on its enforcement.
THAILAND: The Official Information Act 1997 is a core piece of Thailand’s legislation that explicitly prescribes the right to access official information. However, the criteria used by the state agencies for cataloguing information, in terms of what must be proactively disclosed, was still unclear. To elaborate a policy solution, 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. Subsequently, multi-stakeholder dialogues of 200-300 participants were held on 9 July and 7 October 2009. Recommendations for a new draft of the Act were also published and disseminated to the public. In August 2010, the Information Commissioner agreed to the Coalition’s recommendations and guidance has been published requiring public authorities to release environmental and health information without a request.
ZIMBABWE: There is a lack of public access guidelines that can be used by members of the public when they want to access environmental information from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA). 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.
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. Punta de Choros has a wealth of biodiversity, including two nature reserves. Outreach activities targeted the 19 regional council members who would vote on the project. At the same time, the strategy highlighted the campaign pledge of President Sebastián Piñera regarding his opposition to the installation of a power plant in the vicinity of Punta de Choros. Alliances with other environmental organizations were established as well, on local, regional and national levels.
A TV commercial regarding the case of Barrancones was carried out including interviews with public figures, especially those from the entertainment community. In addition, a web site was created (www.salvemospuntadechoros.org). MODEMA compiled 27,000 signatures from various countries in Latin America and Europe and delivered these to the doors of the Chilean presidential palace with wide-ranging media coverage. An initial decision to approve the project faced a campaign that had people using Face book and Twitter as well as a peaceful protest march.
The result was that President Piñera decided to personally oppose the Barrancones project. He ordered the relocation of the coal-fired plant. In addition, he commissioned the Minister of National Assets to study the possibility of establishing protected areas within the national territory, which would disallow the installation of electrical power plants.
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). The EDAR BAJO GRANDE plant is responsible for treating the sewage it receives from the city of Cordoba, and is under the control and administration of the municipality. This plant collapsed several years ago and, as a result has frequently been dumping untreated sewage directly into the Suquia River.
The main purpose of the lawsuit filed by CEDHA and the affected community was to force the municipality to carry out all necessary work to recover the flora, fauna and water quality on the stretch between the 2 ½ km mark where the plant is located up to the mark 12 km downstream. The actors asked the judge in a precautionary and immediate manner to order the Mayor of the municipality of Cordoba not to authorize the construction of new sewer pipes and connections to the collection network in the city of Cordoba until they have finished the expansion to ensure that the sewage treatment will conform with the provincial legislation that provides all the necessary inputs for the plant to run at 100% capacity to reduce the environmental impact of its run off into the river.
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. Until these decisions, legal standing was restrictive, with personal injury to property or person serving as the requirement for filing cases. By these rulings, the courts have broadened legal standing to allow NGO’s to bring public interest cases to enforce environmental laws and recognized the right to a healthy environment.
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. For years, TAI partners brought litigation to the NEAA with little success. 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.
Independently, the Ministry of Forests and Environment introduced a “Green Tribunal Bill” to the Parliament. The Bill sought to abolish the NEAA, establishing a green tribunal to hear environmental disputes throughout the country. The bill went further than reforming the NEAA and covered general environmental litigation as well
litigation that had previously been before the regular courts. However, TAI partners felt that the bill was poorly drafted and had some clauses that actually narrowed legal standing and limited the scope of environmental dispute resolution and access to justice. WRI financed and provided a legal review with TAI India of the new legislation. This analysis was developed into a critique, “How Green Will Be the Green Tribunal” which highlighting the various provisions of the Green Tribunal Bill that needed revision and made recommendations. TAI India partners disseminated their views to the media, initiated a campaign with members of Congress to spur revision, and held nationwide meetings with lawyers and judges to build awareness and raise concerns. Consequently, newspapers began reflecting growing concern.
When the Bill was taken up in the Lower House for debate, several members of parliament opposed the Bill -some even citing the TAI publication “Greening Justice” and the TAI critique. Most of these revisions were incorporated and the Bill was adopted in May 2010.
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). The new environmental tribunal will seek to address the inaccessibility to general courts for the majority of Malawians. CEPA was instrumental in the design of the Tribunal rules which will for the first time ensure an operational tribunal to hear environmental cases in Malawi.
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: The Philippines has been the site of many grave environmental injustices. Many families still await redress for losses of lives and livelihoods due to the 1996 Marcopper Mine Disaster. Justice is delayed for reasons of cost, complicated, often biased rules, and high risks. 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.
This research fed into the drafting of a green “bench book” for the Philippines’ new courts, “Procedures for Environmental Cases.” In April 2010, the Supreme Court issued the official procedures for civil, criminal and special civil actions before the Regional, Metropolitan and Municipal Trial Courts. The newly established procedures are impressive including objectives to protect and advance the constitutional right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology. The rules include provisions to simplify trials; make them speedier, and inexpensive. They also enable courts to monitor and ensure enforcement of judgments and innovative environmental remedies such as continuous mandamus.
The detailed report is attached below
|THE ACCESS INITIATIVE 2010 report.pdf||2.07 MB|