The original text of the Aarhus Convention was written in three languages: English, French and Russian. It was translated into Dutch (following the initiative of the Netherlands and in consultation with Flanders) and German (following the initiative of Austria and Switzerland).
For more information:
- For more information about the Convention, go to the official site
- Download the official text (.PDF) in English or in French
- Download the translation (.PDF) in Dutch or in German
- An implementation guide for the Convention is also available. This Guide explains the different articles of the Convention in detail, and is backed up by practical examples. Download the Guide (.PDF) in English (second edition, June 2014 - French version available later). Download the first edition (2000) of Guide (.PDF) in French or in English
- 'Protecting your environment: The power is in your hands' (April 2014) is a simplified guide to the Aarhus Convention, that aims to make the Convention more accessible to a broader audience. Download the Guide (.PDF) in English or in French. Download the previous Guide (.PDF) 'Your Right to a healthy Environment' (2006) in English or in French.
The Aarhus Convention was created within the framework of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE: www.unece.org). This body is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations. It includes 55 member states: i.e. nearly all countries on the European continent (Western, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus), certain countries in Asia Minor and Central Asia as well as Israel, Canada and the United States.
- 1992: the origins of the Convention date back to 1992, the year the Rio Declaration was drawn up (14/06/1992). In Article 10, the Declaration states that 'environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level'.
- 1995: in Sofia on 25 October 1995, the Third Ministerial Conference 'Environment for Europe' decided on a series of 'Guidelines on Access to Environmental Information and Public Participation in Environmental Decision-making'. These guidelines, which were not legally binding, served as the basis for negotiations leading to the drafting of the Convention itself. These negotiations took place between the beginning of 1996 and March 1998. Belgium participated in all stages leading to the creation of the Convention. Various NGOs also played an active role.
- 1998: on 25 June 1998, the Fourth Ministerial Conference 'Environment for Europe' approved the 'Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters' in Aarhus, Denmark, also called the Aarhus Convention.
- 2001: on 30 October 2001, the Convention entered into force on an international level after having been ratified in 16 countries.
- 2003: on 21 April 2003, the Convention came into force in Belgium.
For more information:
The Convention's signatory countries and those that have ratified the Convention (Party States)
Belgium ratified the Convention on 21 January 2003 after it was approved by the parliaments of the various levels of authority concerned (federal, Walloon, Brussels, Flemish). It has been in force in Belgium since 21 April 2003, i.e. ninety days after its ratification on an international level. The Convention’s provisions have been converted to Belgian law. That way, Belgian citizens have access to the rights set out in the Aarhus Convention.
- The Meeting of the Parties to the Convention:
The Meeting of the Parties to the Convention is the main body of the Convention. It meets every two to three years. Its role is to evaluate the state of progress within the framework of the ratification and implementation of the Convention, to decide upon its future work programme and to make any amendments to the Convention.
For more information on this aspect of the Convention
The First Meeting of the Parties took place in October 2002 in Lucca (Italy).
The Second Meeting of the Parties took place in May 2005 in Almaty (Kazakhstan): an amendment to the Convention regarding GMOs was decided there.
The Third Meeting of the Parties took place in 2008 in Riga (Latvia).
An ‘extraordinary session’ took place in 2010 in Geneva (Switzerland).
The Fourth Meeting of the Parties took place in 2011 in Chisinau (Moldavia).
The Fifth Meeting of the Parties took place in 2014 in Maastricht (the Netherlands).
Working Group of the Parties:
In between the Meetings of the Parties, a working group meets at least once a year. Amongst other things, its mission is to discuss the implementation and follow-up of the work programme as well as preparing the next Meeting of the Parties.
- Bureau of the Meeting Parties:
The Bureau is responsible for preparing the working groups with the support of the Convention's Secretariat.
- Task Forces:
Various task forces also meet under the direction of the Working Group of the Parties.
- Task Force on Access to Information
- Task Force on Public Participation in Decision-making
- Task Force on Access to Justice
- Thematic sessions on promoting the principles of the Convention in international forums (PPIF)
The Compliance Committee dealing with compliance with the Convention's provisions is a committee made up of independent experts who decide upon a Party's compliance or non-compliance with its obligations connected with the Convention.
For more information:
On the work carried out by the various work groups, go to the official site