Boost for Human and Environmental Rights as Aarhus Convention Comes into Force in Ireland

The Aarhus Convention has entered into force in Ireland, signifying an important step forward for environmental democracy in this country, according to Environmental Pillar. The Aarhus Convention upholds the right of every person to have access to information about the environment, the right to participate in decision-making, and the right of access to justice in environmental matters. It sets minimum standards in these areas, and by becoming a party to the Convention, Irish authorities are now legally bound to respect these standards.

“In a democracy, people have the right to know and should have easy access to information,” says Michael Ewing, coordinator of the Environmental Pillar. “You might be looking for information about a development activity in your area, or trying to participate in a planning decision-making process, or simply trying to find out if the river you swim in every summer is polluted. The great news is that your right to access relevant information and to participate is now upheld in law.”

Public participation helps make decision-makers more accountable and environmental decision-making more transparent. In the past, it has often been denied or avoided in the interest of economic, political and sometimes social policies. “Becoming a party to the Convention is a very important step in removing that veil of secrecy,” he adds.

The convention is formally known as the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters.Irelandsigned the Aarhus Convention in 1998 but had not ratified it untill June 20 this year.

The Environmental Pillar was included as the fifth pillar of Ireland’s Social Partnership in April 2009, and is made up of 27 national environmental NGOs, acting together as one social partner alongside the trade unions, the employers, the farmers and the community and voluntary pillars.

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