Information society for people, not for governments

[Maastricht, Netherlands, Wednesday 2 July 2014]


Environment Ministers and high level officials from all over Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia have come to Maastricht to make a renewed commitment to access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters. At the 5th session of the Meeting of the Parties (MoP-5) to the Aarhus Convention1 they came together to adopt the Maastricht Declaration, among other things to better protect whistle-blowers.

Addressing the MOP during a high-level panel discussion, EEB Secretary General Jeremy Wates drew attention to the link between the Edward Snowden revelations of mass surveillance of citizens by certain governments and the Convention’s goal of greater public access to information held by public authorities: “While governments obtain more and more information about the activities of their citizens, the same governments continue to prevent citizens from having access to information held by public authorities. This is not the ‘information society’ we have been calling for.”

Wates also used the opportunity to call for the expansion of the Convention’s Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to a “Protocol 2.0”, which would encompass resource use, products and storage: “Many pollutants leave the factory in the form of products and thus escape the reporting requirements under the Protocol. Others are stored on site, representing a potential hazard to neighbouring communities. And if we want the Protocol to serve as a real driver of sustainability, it should also cover inputs such as energy, water and resources.”

The MoP-5 also welcomes Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland as new Parties joining the Aarhus family. NGOs and many Parties are eager for a geographical expansion beyond the UNECE region so many were satisfied to see that Mongolia also showed an interest to join. It was also encouraging to see country representatives, NGOs and scientists from Chile, the Caribbean, Morocco, Mexico, Japan and China present at the meeting.

New members Ireland and Switzerland immediately ratified the GMO amendment to the Convention, which provides a mechanism for public participation in decision-making on the deliberate release into the environment and the use of GMOs.

Of particular interest were the Compliance Committee's findings of non-compliance by a significant number of Parties2. At MoP5, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Kazachstan, Romania, Spain, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, UK and the European Union were found to be in non-compliance.


For more information
Mara Silina, Aarhus Programme coordinator @ EEB & European ECO Forum 00 32 (0) 472 505 031, or Nick Meynen 00 32 (0) 485 457 373,
The European ECO Forum unites more than 200 civil society organisations in a coalition that works together on issues such as the Aarhus Convention.

More on this website of the European ECO Forum 


1 Adopted in 1998 under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Aarhus Convention seeks to guarantee the rights of the public to have access to information, to participate in decision-making and to have access to justice in environmental matters. The Parties come from Europen the Caucasus and Central Asia.
2 The Compliance Committee is a unique body of individuals who are mandated to make an independent evaluation on whether Parties to the Aarhus Convention are in compliance with their obligations.