A partnership convened by the World Resources Institute

A right to know, a right to be heard, a right to access justice

A right to know, a right to be heard, a right to access justice

By Christian.Aldri... - November 21st, 2014

Environmental Democracy Index

The Access Initiative and the World Resources Institute will launch the first ever Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) on May 20th at the National Press Club. The index will offer new insights into the state of environmental democracy around the world and opportunities to use the tool to support reform. EDI is the first index to measure how well countries’ national laws protect environmental democracy rights, namely:

  • the right of the public to freely access relevant and timely information,
  • to provide public input and scrutiny in decision-making,
  • and to seek justice before an independent and fair legal authority in cases of environmental harm or violation of rights.

Developed by The Access Initiative (TAI) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), the EDI is the first comprehensive index designed specifically to measure procedural rights in an environmental context. The United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Bali Guidelines for the Development of National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters provide EDI with an international standard against which national laws can be assessed.

EDI is an essential tool to help strengthen procedural rights, given that the recent surge in laws on access has not been accompanied by a corresponding analysis of their quality, scope and implementation. Dozens of laws have been passed—in particular on right to information—but laws and regulations protecting citizens’ rights to participate in decisions that impact their environment are too often weak, vague or absent. Public participation opportunities are usually confined to commenting on environmental impact assessments, and even then the public is seldom consulted until after the decision has been made. When these laws are not followed or are implemented ineffectively, citizens often struggle to find redress through accountability or access to justice mechanisms. With the credible measurement EDI provides, citizens and governments will be able to identify and understand the extent to which environmental democracy rights are being strengthened or weakened around the world.

The launch of EDI will provide a critical tool to help address such global environmental problems as air and water pollution, extractive industry impacts and biodiversity loss by establishing a centralized hub of legal analysis on procedural rights. The results will help establish both best practices and areas for improvement.