Boost for human & environmental rights as Aarhus Convention comes into force in Ireland

Today the Aarhus Convention entered into force in Ireland, signifying an important step forward for environmental democracy in this country.
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,’ said 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,’ said Mr Ewing.
The convention is formally known as the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. Ireland signed the Aarhus Convention in 1998 but had not ratified it till June 20 this year.
‘I congratulate the government for taking the necessary steps for Ireland to ratify the Convention,’ said Mr Ewing. He also stressed the importance of raising public awareness and training staff in public authorities, for the Convention to be effectively implemented.