Introducing the Aarhus Convention
The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters was adopted on 25th June 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus at the Fourth Ministerial Conference in the 'Environment for Europe' process.
The Aarhus Convention is a new kind of environmental agreement. The Convention:
- Links environmental rights and human rights
- Acknowledges that we owe an obligation to future generations
- Establishes that sustainable development can be achieved only through the involvement of all stakeholders
- Links government accountability and environmental protection
- Focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities in a democratic context.
The subject of the Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The
Convention is not only an environmental agreement, it is also a Convention about government accountability,
transparency and responsiveness.
The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on Parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice.
The Aarhus Convention is also forging a new process for public participation in the negotiation and implementation of international agreements.
Mr. Jeremy Wates, the first Secretary to the Convention, presents a short introduction to the Convention in this online video clip.
Signatories prepare for entry into force
After the adoption of the Convention, two meetings of Signatories were held in 1999 and in 2000. A Preparatory Working Group to the first meeting of the Parties met three times in 2001 and 2002.
Entry into force
The Convention entered into force on 30 October 2001, after relatively rapid progress was made in obtaining ratifications by sixteen of the Signatories.
First meeting of the Parties
The first meeting of the Parties took place in Lucca, Italy,
on 21-23 October 2002. The Meeting adopted the Lucca Declaration as well as a number of decisions inter alia on PRTRs
GMOs, access to justice, electronic information tools,
rules of procedure for the Meeting of the Parties,
compliance, capacity-building, and the work programme.
Adoption of the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers
An extraordinary meeting of the Parties was held on 21 May 2003 in Kiev, Ukraine, in the framework of the fifth 'Environment for Europe' Ministerial Conference. The Meeting of the Parties adopted the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, which was subsequently opened for signature.
Thirty-six States and the European Community signed the
Protocol in Kiev.
Second meeting of the Parties
The second meeting of the Parties took place in Almaty,
Kazakhstan, on 25-27 May 2005. The Meeting adopted an
amendment to the Convention setting out more precise
provisions on public participation in decision-making on
deliberate release of genetically modified organisms, thereby
bringing to a close a long-standing debate on the topic. The
amendment will enter into force once ratified by at least three-quarters of the Parties.
The Meeting reviewed the status of implementation of and compliance with the Convention on the basis of the national implementation reports and the report of the Compliance Committee and made recommendations to certain Parties
found not be in compliance.
The Meeting also adopted the Almaty Guidelines on Promoting the Application of the Principles of the Aarhus Convention in International Forums and a number of decisions addressing both substantive and procedural issues.
Finally, it adopted the Almaty Declaration setting out the aspirations and priorities of the Parties and other stakeholders.
Third meeting of the Parties
The third meeting of the Parties was held in Riga, Latvia, on 11-13 June 2008.
The Meeting adopted the Riga Declaration and a strategic plan for the Convention, resolved the issue of how to calculate ratification of amendments, and renewed the mandates of task forces dealing with access to justice, electronic information tools and public participation in international forums.
For a review of the key outcomes of the third meeting, click here.
Fourth session of the Meeting of the Parties
The fourth session of the Meeting of the Parties was held in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova, from 29 June to 1 July 2011.
The Meeting adopted the Chisinau Declaration and a number of decisions, including the future work programme to guide the activities in the next intersessional period. For the documents, please click here.
There is more on the content and full text of the Convention.
For recent updates, please check our crosscutting issues, news, related events or visit the Aarhus Clearinghouse.