The Aarhus Convention
Every person has the right to be informed, to be involved in decision-making and to have access to justice in environmental matters. In short, this is the content of the Aarhus Convention. This key text contributes to creating trust amongst the public in relation to its institutions and, on a broader level, their democratic way of operating. By offering the public involvement in environmental discussions, it meets the requirements of transparency and community, synonymous with good public governance.
The Aarhus Convention and the COVID-19 pandemic
The Compliance Committee to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) adopted a statement on the application of the Aarhus Convention both during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the subsequent phase of economic recovery.
In its statement, the Compliance Committee makes clear that even in a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic recovery phase, the binding rights in the Convention cannot be reduced or curtailed. It welcomes the constructive approach taken by some Parties in exploring ways to ensure that the Convention’s requirements are met during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information, please consult the statement of the Committee and the press release published by the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), that are only available in English.
- Ongoing public consultations
- 20/10/2020 - 24/11/2020: Public consultation on the application of the Aarhus Convention in Belgium
- From the 14th of September until the 13th of December, the French government will hold a public consultation on the planned windfarm of the coast of Dunkirk. Since the construction can have an impact on the Belgian (coastal) societies and economy, the Belgian authorities have decided to aid in spreading the relevant information to its citizens.
One convention, three levers of democracy
The Aarhus Convention grants three fundamental rights to the public and the associations representing it:
It specifically deals with two major issues regarding transparency:
The Aarhus convention in Belgium
The Aarhus Convention was adopted on 25 June 1998 by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). On 30 October 2001 the European Community ratified the Convention and adapted its legislation to the Convention’s provisions (see Implementation in the EU). Since 21 April 2003 the Convention has been in force in Belgium. The belgian federal and regional authorities have adapted their legislation to the Convention’s provisions (see Implementation in Belgium):
- the federal public service (FPS) Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment;
- DGARNE for the Walloon Region;
- Bruxelles Environnement / Leefmilieu Brussel for the Brussels-Capital Region;
- Environment, Nature and Energy Department for the Flemish Region.
Every three years, Belgium has to write an Aarhus Convention implementation report and submit it for public consultation.