Public participation in decision-making
The second pillar of the Aarhus Convention is based on the concept of public participation and is derived from Principle 10 of Rio Declaration: Environmental issues / environment is best addressed with the participation of all concerned citizens at certain levels.
What are the minimum conditions / requirements for public participation?
In short, the Convention imposes the following basic requirements / conditions of public institutions of government:
– To inform the public about the process of public participation,
– Take the comments into account and notifies the applicant’s comments.
Participation requires awareness. It is therefore very important to provide the public and make available precise, accurate and timely information. Deadlines for public participation must be provided at the earliest possible stage, from the very beginning of the first phase of the process, when all options are still open, according to pre-established schedule. Finally, public authorities must take into account the results of public participation in the process of making a final decision. The public must be informed of the extent to which the results of the public participation taken into account. If public opinion is not taken into account when making decisions, the authorities must explain the reasons for it.
Who benefits from the right to participate?
All interested citizens to participate in the consultation process.
· Non-governmental organizations dealing with the environment / environment are de facto included in this target group under the Convention (Article 2.5).
What are the different types of decisions covered by the Convention?
There are four types of decisions concerning the right of public participation:
First issuing permits for certain activities or installations
Second development plans and programs in the field of environment / environmental
Third policy development environment / environmental
Fourth preparation and drafting of legislation.
Issuance of permits for certain activities or installations
This common form of public participation is carried out mainly for the issuance of permits, such as environmental / ecological permit. This applies when the approval requirements for certain activities or projects arising from certain sectors / activities that are believed to contain highly polluting substances (chemical industry, energy, waste, etc..) Or can have a significant impact on the environment / environment. This allows the public to contribute to the decision-making process. Two members of the Aarhus Convention dealing with this form of public participation:
Article 6 of the Convention provides the following measures:
· Information pertaining to the licensing of these activities or projects, shall be freely available to the public.
· The competent authority must also inform the public about the decisions and have to justify them.
· The appeals process is provided (Article 9.2 of the Convention).
Article 6 bis, introduced by the Convention in the form of amendments in May 2005, specifically addresses the approvals related to GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
Development plans and programs, environmental / environmental
Article 7 of the Convention offers the public the opportunity to participate in developing plans and programs. This refers to the tools established by public authority responsible for the organization, in time and space, social activity that is closely or remotely affect the environment / environment or living environment. For example: made plans relating to spatial planning or strategy, environmental / environmental related, for example, the fight against climate change, management / waste management, and strategies for environmental protection.
The development of environmental policy / environmental
The Convention recommends that public authorities provide public involvement in the development of environmental policy / environment (see Article 7, last sentence).
In the preparation and drafting of legislation Convention recognizes the role of the public. Article 8 gives the responsibility of public authorities to carry out the activities necessary for effective public participation. It can also be taught through a representative advisory bodies or by including representatives of associations concerned with environmental issues / environment in the working group for drafting policies.