In 1992 the Rio Declaration was adopted and contained in part Principle 10 stating that:
“Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided. “
Principle 10 sets out three fundamental rights: access to information, access to public participation and access to justice, as key pillars of sound environmental governance. The “access rights” have emerged to be very important in promoting transparent, inclusive and accountable environmental governance. Access to information empowers citizens and incentivizes them to participate in decision and policy making processes in an informed manner. Public participation is increasingly being seen as a vital part of addressing environmental problems and achieving sustainable development by encouraging governments to adopt policies and enact laws that take community needs into account. Access to justice provides the foundation of the “access rights”, as it facilitates the public’s ability to enforce their right to participate, to be informed, and to hold regulators and polluters accountable for environmental harm.
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development from 2012 (Rio + 20) re-confirmed Principle 10, in its outcome document, “The Future We Want”, and also underlined its importance at the regional level.
In order to catalyze and to accelerate action in terms of implementing Principle 10, in 2010 Governments at the 11th Special Session of UNEP’s Governing Council/ Global Ministerial Environmental Forum in Bali, Indonesia adopted the Guidelines for the Development of National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Bali Guidelines).
These guidelines have since been used to develop national environmental legislation in a number of countries. To further advance implementation of Principle 10 and the use of the Bali Guidelines among countries, UNEP has developed an Implementation Guide for the Bali Guidelines, which was first published in English in October 2015.
Now in August 2016, UNEP published and has launched the implementation guide in Spanish. UNEP aims to further translate the implementation guide into other language to make more user friendly for many readers.