Rapid development in Asia has transformed the economic environment for many countries. Unfortunately it has also brought a corresponding threat to the environment and public health. Since the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the international community has recognized that sustainable development depends on good governance including the right of access to information, public participation and access to justice. However, sustainable development cannot happen in secret nor without dynamic, meaningful citizen participation.
The Strengthening the Right to Information for People and the Environment (STRIPE) project focuses on empowering communities to improve their environmental health through the use of their rights to access information. STRIPE provides an effective method for utilizing Freedom of Information laws to access information and opportunities for strategic public participation and peer learning that focus on transforming information into action. STRIPE has highlighted the challenges faced by communities in heavily polluted areas to obtain information in Indonesia, Thailand, and Mongolia. By expanding the capacity of civil society and local communities to use information STRIPE encourages citizens to take action and address the broad range of health and social justice impacts resulting from environmental contamination
Overall the project objectives include:
- Empowering communities in the target countries to improve their environmental health through improved access to information and public participation.
- Improving the implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) laws and Proactive Disclosure Policies by strengthening domestic constituencies demanding environmental information.
- Strengthening or accelerating the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data on environmental conditions and point source pollution releases in formats easily understood by a wide a variety of individuals and groups.
- Shifting popular definitions of access to information from “reactive” to “proactive” release of information, emphasizing availability, publicity, and usability.
- Encouraging strategic public participation and peer learning to take advantage of the new access rights and expand opportunities for citizen involvement in critical government decision making processes and policies.
- Further enhancing regional transparency efforts by providing advocacy tools and best practice policy models that can be utilized by a broad range of access rights stakeholders.
UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI) are developing an Implementation Guide for the 2010 UNEP “Bali Guidelines for the Development of National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters” (Bali Guidelines), scheduled for release The guide will be a practical tool that may be used by policymakers, legal professionals, decision makers and civil society to aid them in their work to enact reforms to strengthen access to information, public participation, and access to justice. It will account for the diverse range of systems of law throughout the world, with examples that will represent various legal, political and institutional contexts. These may include, for example, Right to Information laws, Environmental Impact Assessment legislation, or the creation of courts or tribunals to ensure access to environmental justice. By helping practitioners, advocates, and policy-makers identify gaps and prioritize actions, it increase the likelihood of timely and substantive legal reforms for procedural rights supporting Principle 10.