We believe the root cause of many of our challenging environmental issues is a lack of strong and effective governance. Without strong access rights, citizens may be exposed to environmentally damaging, developmentally unsustainable and socially unjust decisions. Guaranteeing these rights is a practical means of ensuring that governments consider sustainable development concerns and the interests of the poor and marginalized.
· Access to Information | Many governments have passed right to information laws in recent years; however, documented problems with implementation persist. Environmental information is often inaccessible and incomprehensible for local or rural communities, and is rarely disclosed proactively.
· Public Participation | While many countries have made progress in the passage of environmental impact assessment (EIA) laws, rights to participation have not been mainstreamed into policymaking and planning processes and often legal rights to participate are weak or unenforced.
· Access to Justice | The number and capacity of specialized environmental courts and tribunals has increased, but new or persistent environmental threats, and the shift of industrialization to developing countries has meant that the scope of regulation has not kept pace with evolving environmental issues. Barriers such as difficulties in obtaining legal representation and high court costs often continue to prevent women and those in poverty from accessing courts to obtain equitable remedies.
· Capacity Building | Both government and civil society require financial resources, staff skills and training to ensure that access rights are respected. All too often, the public doesn’t reap the full benefits of good laws because of the lack of capacity in government agencies to respect and implement the law. Communities and marginalized groups also need capacity building to be empowered to use their rights to information, participation and justice.
Goals of the Network
Informed and empowered public involvement in key stages of environmental decision making leads to better outcomes and a more meaningful democratic process. Effective implementation, adequate capacity for enforcement and resources for communities to exercise their rights are all essential to ensuring that the public can reap the full benefits of good laws. When environmental democracy rights are implemented, the public is empowered to:
- Stay informed about natural resource developments
- Monitor government and corporate performance
- Participate in and influence decisions that impact the environment
- Advocate for changes in policies and practices
- Demand compensation and relief in cases of environmental harm
How we work
Members of the Access Initiative create change through a rights-based approach, using principle 10 as a foundation for all its work – from the local to international levels. At the heart of the access initiative’s work is a suite of tools and platforms that helps civil society pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in environmental governance in their countries and identify opportunities to make positive changes.
· The Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) is an interactive platform and tool that allows citizens and advocates to track their countries’ progress in protecting the public’s rights to information, participation, and justice in environmental decision-making.
· The TAI Assessment Toolkit uses a framework of case studies and indicators that evaluate both laws on the books and governance on the ground.
· The Rapid Institutional Analysis for Adaptation (ARIA) Toolkit helps civil-society organizations work with national governments to plan for and respond to the impacts of climate change with the full participation of the public.
· The Water Governance Toolkit provides guidance to civil society groups interested in evaluating access to information, public participation and access to justice in decisions related to fresh water.
· The Advocacy Toolkit helps TAI partners strategically achieve reform and policy practice around access to information, public participation and access to justice.
· Development Alert!Helps TAI partners use technology to facilitate greater transparency and public participation in the development approval process using data obtained from the government to map new and proposed large scale development projects.
· The Strengthening the Right to Information for People and the Environment toolkit provides a method to assess governments’ release of information about the quality of air and water at the national and local level to increase accountability in the reduction of pollution.