Protecting and improving the environment are everyone's business. Every citizen has the right to live in a healthy environment conducive to their health and well-being. This is why the Aarhus Convention gives everyone the right to be involved in environmental matters. The Aarhus Convention consists of three pillars:
- access to environmental information
On the one hand, the authorities must make environmental information spontaneously available on their websites (active advertising) and, on the other hand, every citizen can request environmental information from the authorities (passive advertising).
- public participation in the environmental decision-making process
Every citizen can give their opinion on plans, programmes and projects relating to the environment through public consultations or inquiries. Citizens' comments should be taken into account as far as possible.
- access to justice in environmental matters
Every citizen may appeal if they consider that their request for information has not been properly dealt with by the authority; if they find irregularities in the course of a public consultation or if conflicts arise in environmental matters.
The national portal www.aarhus.be (The Aarhus Convention in Belgium) provides general information on the Convention, its pillars and their transposition in Belgium by the federal authorities and the three Regions.
This page "The federal government is committed to your environmental rights" explains how these three pillars of the Convention are implemented specifically at the federal level in legislation and practice:
What information do the federal authorities provide to the public actively or passively?
The Contact Centre of the FPS Public Health, Safety of the Food Chain and Environment responds to all requests for information on the environment. See also the pamphlet:
In which specific federal plans, programmes, projects and activities can you participate as a citizen?
The Public Consultations page gives an overview of the current and past public consultations of the FPS Public Health, Safety of the Food Chain and Environment and the three Regions.
How do you actually access justice in environmental matters?
In 2002, the Federal State gave its assent to the Convention by means of the Act of 17 December 2002 (FR/NL).
The first pillar, "Access to environmental information" was transposed in the Act of 5 August 2006 (FR/NL) on public access to environmental information.
The second pillar "Public participation in the decision-making process" was transposed in the Act of 13 February 2006 (FR/NL) on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment and public participation in the preparation of plans and programmes relating to the environment.
For the third pillar, "Access to justice", current Belgian legislation is sufficient to comply with the obligations of the Convention (in particular the Coordinated Acts on the Council of State and the Judicial Code). A Federal Appeals Commission has been set up for appeals relating to access to information (see "Federal environmental information > passive advertising > Go to appeal").