Poland

Poland completed its first assessment in 2006 and found that Poland systematically implements the political declarations formulated in Principle 10 of the Rio de Janeiro Declaration. Certainly, much still remains to be done, but over the last decade a legal system permitting citizens’ access to information on the environment has been created and implemented. No-one questions the need for the existence of such a system and certain achievements in this area may be treated as models. The situation of public participation is slightly worse, since it is in this area that many practices which are at least controversial have developed. The situation of implementation and control, i.e. the range of building the capacity of the country – the administration and citizens – seems to be weakest. Therefore, the implementation of Principle 10 in Poland has not become a driver of sustainable development yet, although it is by no means regarded as redundant.

The effect of the legal regulations and the practices of conduct as introduced the Aarhus Convention with regard to access to information indicates that such an external commitment perfectly supports the national legal system and, thereby, practices of conduct. Therefore, it is important to decisively strengthen the implementation of this Convention, e.g. in relation to PRTR type reports or public participation in the control of genetically modified organisms (GMO).

One should not forget, however, the issues which are difficult to measure and simply impossible to regulate. The building of citizens’ awareness is also the building of the awareness of administration officers and judges and the development of co-operation among different social groups. The better participation of informed citizens in decision-making processes substitutes for and supports the work of offices. The greater capacity of the administration and non-governmental organisations means the possibility of avoiding conflicts, choosing the best, generally accepted solutions and minimising the adverse effects on human health and environment. This is the purpose which is served by the political declarations of Principle 10 and by the Poland TAI Coalition.