Working Group A - Access to information and participation


Access to information, freedom of expression, participation and accountability are critical to informed decision making on environmental issues and for accountability. The forum will explore existing tools and challenges for enabling informed and human rights-based decision making in environmental matters.

Several international or regional agreements will inform the discussions:

  • Since 1998, Europe has had the Aarhus Convention[1] which is intended to guarantee citizens’ access to environmental information that is held by public authorities, public participation in environmental decision-making; as well as access to justice, specifically the right to review procedures to challenge public decisions that have been made without respecting the two aforementioned rights or environmental law.
  • The Latin American and Caribbean Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters (Escazú Agreement, 2018) “sets regional standards, fosters capacity building —particularly through South-South cooperation— lays the foundations of a supporting institutional architecture and offers tools for improved policy- and decision-making.”[2]
  • The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples[3] adopted in 2007 promulgates indigenous peoples right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilisation or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources as well as the provision of mechanisms for redress and appropriate measures to mitigate adverse impacts including environmental impacts.
  • UN Agencies, such as Food and Agricultural Organization, have developed manuals for project practitioners on the FPIC.[4]

This Working Group is also an opportunity for CSOs to provide feedback regarding the EU’s efforts to promote the above objectives in external action. In particular, since 2014, support from EU institutions, including Delegations, reflects the EU Human Rights guidelines on freedom of expression online and offline.[5] In addition, the EU has also made efforts to mainstream a Rights Based Approach across its international development cooperation.[6] Sectoral guidelines have been produced to support the mainstreaming of civil society across all sectors of EU development cooperation.

Specific activities

This working group contributes to the Forum with an analysis of existing framework and opportunities for investigating, accessing and bringing forward information about environmental issues. Participants will provide case studies and best practices to enrich the audience with practical actions.

Interactive Working Group sessions

Access to information and freedom of expression

[Tuesday 3 December, 11:00-13:00]

Moderator: Tom Gibson

The two keynote speakers will set the scene, presenting the normative background and overall principles, the Aarhus Convention and Escazú Agreement, etc.

  • Marc Giacomini, DMD Global, EEAS
  • Jeremy Wates, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau, former Secretary to the Aarhus Convention

This will be followed by two panel discussions

Panel one: Access to information

At least one speaker will present a case study dealing with access to information and the specific issues of free prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples (under UNDRIP). At least one speaker will focus on a case study of access to information from the perspective of a campaigning CSO or an investigative journalist project. The main focus will be on challenges in access to information at the national level, institutional and legal issues and socio-political relations.

  • Joan Carling, Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group for Sustainable Development
  • Andryi Andrusevych, Resources and Analysis Centre, Ukraine (TBC)

Panel 2 Freedom of expression. The speakers in this session will focus on freedom of expression from a journalist perspective and from a campaigning CSO perspective. The EU will also present its key commitments and support on relevant themes.

  • Laurent Richard, Journalist, Green Blood investigation, France
  • Patricia Gualinga, Indigenous leader, Sarayaku, Ecuador
  • Laura Bretea, Policy Officer, Freedom of Expression and Media, European Commission
  • Imelda Abano, Journalist and Founding President Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists, Inc (PNEJ)

Emerging practices of participation and accountability

[Wednesday 4 December, 14:30-16:00]

Moderator - Nadia Costantini, EEAS Global

Suggested participants include

  • Mr Dmitry Berezhkov , indigenous activist from Kamchatka, Russia
  • Mr Trinh Le Nguyen, Vietnam
  • Mr William Leslie Amanzuru, Uganda (TBC)
  • Ms Maria Isabel Dajome Banguera, Columbia (TBC)
  • Ms Marie-Ange Kalenga, FERN, Belgium


The moderators will lead the two sessions. They will guide the discussion towards the identification of take-aways.

A note-taker is required for both sessions. S/he will assist the moderator in identifying and recording take-aways from these sessions.

In addition to the identified speakers, up to five confirmed participants will be asked to prepare a 2 minute presentation on a proposed takeaway. The moderator will call on these people during the discussion (to ensure that key themes are discussed, to keep the conversation participatory).

Interpretation (EN/FR/ES) will be required for both sessions.

Background documents

The following documents can be accessed from the Conference website, selecting the tab ‘Documents’ and then the tab ‘Access to Information, Participation’

  • Aarhus Convention (Europe)
  • Escazú Agreement (Latin America and Caribbean)
  • UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)
  • FAO manual for project practitioners on indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent
  • EU Human Rights guidelines on freedom of expression online and offline
  • Tool Box ‘A Rights-based approach, encompassing all human rights for EU Development Cooperation’, Commission staff working document


[1] https://live.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/pp/documents/cep43e.pdf

[2] From the foreword by UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/43583/1/S1800428_en.pdf

[3] https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples.html

[4] See for instance http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6190e.pdf

[5] For the text of the Guidelines as well as other materials (designed to assist EU Delegations in implementing the Guidelines) see  https://media4democracy.eu/the-eu-guidelines-on-freedom-of-expression-online-and-offline/

[6] https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/sites/devco/files/online_170621_eidhr_rba_toolbox_en_a5_lc_0.pdf