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The Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) is a diagnostic tool, legal index, and interactive map being developed by The Access Initiative (TAI) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) to assess the status of a country’s laws against the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Guidelines for the development of national legislation on access to information, public participation, and access to justice on environmental matters (Bali, 2010). EDI is free and open to use by citizens, NGOs, academia, governments, and companies to determine legal gaps and develop reform proposals. It will allow citizens and lawmakers to track their country’s progress towards implementing Principle 10 legislation through the use of an online index and interactive map. If a country receives a high score, its laws are well-aligned with the UNEP P10 Bali guidelines and will probably need very little improvement. If a country’s score is low, it is likely that opportunities to access information, participate in decision-making, and access remedies or grievance mechanisms are few and that major legal reforms are needed. While EDI does not assess the implementation of the law, researchers may flag implementation issues as comments when ranking the indicator.

What are the Environmental Democracy Legal Diagnostic Tool, Index & Map?

  • an Environmental Democracy law diagnostic tool which is usable by all,
  • an Environmental Democracy Index, produced and published by the Access initiative (TAI)-- using the diagnostic tool and,
  • an Environmental Democracy Index map, produced by the World Resources Institute (WRI)

The Environmental Democracy Legal Diagnostic Tool, Legal Index and Legal Map assess the status of a country’s laws as against the UNEP Guidelines for the development of national legislation on access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters (Bali, 2010) (hereinafter called “UNEP P10 Bali Guidelines”).

The UNEP guidelines enhance and supplement Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration that was signed by 178 governments in 1992. Principle 10 (also called the environmental democracy principle) states that environmental issues are best handled with public participation, access to information and access to justice. These three rights are referred to as the three pillars of Principle 10.

The Legal diagnostic tool consists of indicators that facilitate the assessment of the status of a country’s laws against 23 of the 26 UNEP P10 Bali Guidelines. Each indicator is provided with a guiding note and a scoring guide.

The Legal Index will be developed and maintained by WRI and TAI. Using the Environmental Democracy Diagnostic Tool, WRI and TAI partners will research and rank the indicators and populate an index where countries will be ranked against the UNEP P10 Bali Guidelines. Twelve countries will be indexed as a pilot in 2013. Thereafter, every two years, the Index will be prepared for over 100 countries and made public. Developing an Environmental Democracy Diagnostic Tool and Index will help countries to improve their legal performance against the new UNEP P10 Bali Guidelines.

Based on the results of the index, WRI will publish every two years an Environmental Democracy Map showing the status of access to information, public participation and access to justice across the world. Voluntary guidelines coupled with resource and budgetary constrains both governments and UNEP and limit the potential impact of this option.

How can the diagnostic tool be used?

A Legal Diagnostic Tool which ranks the legal status of the three pillars of Principle 10 (access to information, public participation and access to justice), separately helps to identify legal gaps in these areas. It also helps to identify legal strengths. In country “A” the Diagnostic Tool might find strong access to justice laws and weak public participation laws. In another country, the situation could be reversed. The diagnostic tool can be used by anyone – government, civil society, academia and the private sector.

What is unique about the Environmental Democracy Index (EDI)?

  • There is no index that evaluates all three pillars of Principle 10.
  • The many transparency related indices all measure access to information.
  • None of them assess and rank laws and practices relating to public participation and access to justice.
  • EDI would fill that gap.
  • EDI is therefore a much better indicator of “environmental democracy” than any one of the currently available transparency indices alone.

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