What is Aarhus contract?

What is Aarhus contract? The Aarhus Convention, full name “Convention on Access to Information on Environmental Issues, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice”, was signed in Denmark on 25 June 1998. The convention, which was opened for signature by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and signed by 26 countries in the first stage, entered into force in 2001. As of today, 46 countries have signed the convention; all the countries party are European and some Central Asian countries (such as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan).

The Aarhus Convention was created to strengthen the role of citizens and non-governmental organizations in environmental issues and was founded on the principles of participatory democracy. It brings a number of rights related to the environment to individuals and non-governmental organizations. Public authorities at national, regional or local level in the countries party to the Convention shall establish the necessary provisions to contribute to the entry into force of these rights. The contract is basically based on three principles:

What is Aarhus contract?

Access to information: Citizens have the right to know about environmental information held by public authorities.
Public participation in the decision-making process: Citizens have the right to participate in the preparation of plans, programs, policies and legislation that may affect the environment.
Access to justice: Each citizen is granted access to review/judicial procedures when their rights to access information or public participation are violated.

According to the Aarhus Convention, anyone living in the Contracting Parties may have access to environmental information held for or by a public entity. Physical conditions related to environmental practices, problems affecting human health, policies implemented by the relevant organization and measures taken are some of these information.

Pollution Prevention Control

In addition, citizens can make plans on environmental issues, regulations to be put into effect, policies developed; environmental licenses, waste and coastal licenses, Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) processes. In this context, the public institutions that will take the decision should create and manage an announcement system on how citizens will give feedback on the relevant decision. Through this system, citizens should be able to give feedback on the landscaping, projects or policies in question and the public institution should take these notifications as a dictate.

The Aarhus Convention gives the public and environment-related non-governmental organizations the right to ask the public authority to review decisions that may affect the environment. Inspection procedures should provide adequate and effective solutions; fair, ethical values, reasonable in terms of time and costs that will make it possible to implement the application. The first addressee of the objections to be made regarding the decisions that will affect the environment is the relevant public institution. After the initial evaluations are made and the appeal process is completed, an application can be made to a higher court.

The Aarhus Convention is the only legally binding global arrangement for environmental democracy and freedom today. It protects the right of every citizen in the participating countries to live in an environmentally sustainable, healthy and safe environment.

Other Regulations Relating to the Aarhus Convention

There are currently two different EU directives to which the Aarhus Convention applies: the Directive on Public Access to Environmental Information (2003/4/EC) and the Directive on Public Participation (2003/35/EC), which form the legal basis for the Aarhus Convention; sets out applicable rules and guidelines for access to environmental information and public participation in decision-making processes.

After the Arhus Convention was signed, two more agreements were made regarding the contract. The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Records obliges the Contracting Parties to the Aarhus Convention to establish and maintain publicly accessible records containing information on pollutants resulting from certain environmentally important activities, such as mining and waste disposal. The Convention on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) emphasizes that there should be public participation in decisions on the deliberate release of GMOs. These requirements are more specific and specific than the general requirements for public participation applicable to other matters covered by the Aarhus Convention and contract.

Semih Bulgur

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