The Aarhus Convention

The Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) was adopted on 25 June 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus. The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights regarding access  to information, public participation and access to justice.

Access to information

An essential precondition for the participation in decision-making is the knowledge about the state of the environment. According to the Aarhus Convention the public has the right to obtain information on request from public authorities.

Public participation

The Aarhus Convention provides that concerned citizens can play a part in environmental decision-making. It specifies the conditions under which someone can participate in environmental decision-making and plans. It enables participation in decision-making on approval of certain industrial facilities and other individual projects, the development of environmental plans and programs, the preparation of executive regulations and other applicable legally binding instruments.

Access to justice

The Aarhus Convention guarantees that everyone can enforce their rights to information and participation by legal action. The Convention aims to provide access to justice in review procedures with respect to information requests or specific decisions which are subject to public participation requirements and in challenges to breaches of environmental law in general.

Signatories and Implementation

As of April 2013, there were 46 Parties that ratified the Convention. The Signatories meet every three years to deliberate on the development and their implementation. The European Commission is a Party to the Convention since May 2005. Provisions for access to information and public participation in environmental decision-making are to be found in a number of environmental directives, that were to be implemented in the national law of the Member States.

  • Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2003 on public access to environmental information and repealing Council Directive 90/313/EEC
  • Directive 2003/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 May 2003 providing for public participation in respect of the drawing up of certain plans and programmes relating to the environment and amending with regard to public participation and access to justice Council Directives 85/337/EEC and 96/61/EC
  • Directive 2001/42/EC of 27 June 2001 on the assessment of certain plans and programmes on the environment
  • Regulation (EC) N° 1367/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the application of the provisions of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters to Community institutions and bodies entered into force on 28 September 2006 (“Aarhus Regulation”)

The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC) consists of nine Members that serve in a personal capacity and do not represent the countries of which they are nationals. The Committee may examine compliance issues, make recommendations, prepare reports and monitor the implementation of and the compliance with the reporting requirements. Members of the public may make communications concerning a Party’s compliance with the convention.