Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters - Aarhus Convention

Publication date

From the Website of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe - UNECE:
For a list of signatories and declarations and reservations see:

Full-text (PDF) in: English (51 KB) | Swedish (250 KB) | Finnish (268 KB)

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. It links environmental rights and human rights. It.acknowledges that we owe an obligation to future generations.
It establishes that sustainable development can be achieved only through the involvement of all stakeholders.

It links government accountability and environmental protection. It focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities in a democratic context and it is forging a new process for public participation in the negotiation and implementation of international agreements.

The subject of the Aarhus 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.

Signatories prepare for entry into force

After the adoption of the Convention, two meetings of Signatories were held in 1999 and in 2000 and a Working Group to the first meeting of the Parties met three times in 2001 and 2002.

The Convention entered into force on 30 October 2001 and progress of ratification has been relatively rapid.

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 extra-ordinary 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 othe stakeholders.

Third meeting of the Parties upcoming

The third meeting of the Parties will be held in Riga, Latvia, on 11-13 June 2008. The Meeting is expected to consider the adoption of a long-term strategic plan for the Convention.

Further information
More on the content of the Convention and full text of the Convention.

For recent updates, please check our news or visit the Aarhus Clearinghouse.

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unece19980625en.pdf 50.06 KB
unece19980625sv.pdf 249.61 KB
unece19980625fi.pdf 267.66 KB