9th Global Conference
Sunday 11th July 2010 – Tuesday 13th July 2010
Mansfield College, Oxford
NGOs’ Involvement in Developing the Aarhus Convention: A Case of a UNECE Conference
Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, UK
The Aarhus Convention is the United Nations regional convention that rests upon three pillars, namely access to information, participation in decision making and access to justice in environmental matters. It was adopted in 1998 after strong participation of NGOs in the working sessions and drafting of the final agreement. Since then, the NGOs have been taking active part in monitoring and assisting with the Convention’s implementation. Such involvement gives an opportunity to inject the activists’ fresh evidence and experience into the high-level environmental negotiations. It also creates a good example of establishing a culture of participation and transparency in international environmental governance. This paper looks into the NGOs formal and informal avenues of influence during the Third Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention in Riga in 2008 (UNECE Conference). Officially the NGOs exercise a status of the ‘observer’. However, the draft procedures, which have never become accepted by the state actors, had granted the NGOs a status of the ‘non-voting participant’. This paper argues that, in reality, the NGOs enjoy considerable influence typical for the participant rather than the observer. It focuses on a case study during the UNECE Conference, where the NGOs gained favour with the European Union countries over the establishment of a Task Force on Public Participation in Decision-making. The argument is underpinned by empirical research including participant observation, interviews with the crucial state actors and a focus group with the leaders of the NGOs.
Public Participation and Environmental Justice Legislation in the UK: The Aarhus Convention and the Planning Act 2008
School of Geography, University of Exeter, Devon, UK
The Community’s Right to Know about Toxic Spills in the American Legislation
Bridgewater College, Virginia, USA
This paper investigates an important legislative response to more than 5,000 environmental disasters involving toxic spills in the United States between 1980 and 1985. Pressured by the Anti-Toxic and Environmental Justice movements of the late 20th century, the U.S.A. Congress enacted the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act (EPCRA) in 1986. EPCRA was the first federal law in the United States to fully embrace the right-to-know approach to public policy. The right-to-know approach is based on the ideas of self-governance and public participation in the decision-making process. EPCRA has served as a model for more than 80 countries, which adopted laws based on the right-to-know principle in different levels since EPCRA’s enactment.