This publication represents the culmination of several years of research, experimentation, and reform by governments, civil society organizations, and industry in implementing access to information, public participation, and access to justice in decisions that affect the environment. Voice and Choice is an interim report of the Access Initiative, and captures the results of the network’s first efforts to assess the adoption and implementation of environmental access rights. As an interim report, its main purpose is to begin to answer the questions, “Where are we?” and “Where do we go from here?”
Chapter 1 Opening Access provides a theoretical and historical background for access rights and the relationship these rights seek to establish between governments and people in the context of environmental decision-making. Reformers at the convergence of agendas in environment, governance, and human rights have already made significant inroads in measuring, analyzing, and promoting more open and transparent governance around natural resources. The chapter also presents The Access Initiative (TAI) method for assessing government provision of access rights and shows a number of general results of these assessments.
Chapter 2 Strengthening the Argument for Access provides access proponents within and outside of government a broad palette of arguments to use in order to spur reform in decision-making processes. The chapter outlines three key arguments for access rights, under the assumption that access proponents and governments will find some arguments more compelling than others given their unique circumstances. First, the chapter argues that access rights are human rights grounded in international law. Second, the chapter briefly touches upon the larger arguments other researchers have made about the positive relationship between good governance and growth at the national level. Third, the chapter looks at evidence about how public participation, access to information, and access to justice affect the quality of decisions on the small scale.
Chapter 3 Access Hurdles presents and draws lessons from original research completed by the TAI network. Aggregated data from this research shows that while access to information law and public participation law have grown, implementation is still lacking. In order to deal with this, the chapter identifies hurdles to further implementation of access rights and presents case studies where access proponents have encountered, and in some cases, overcome these hurdles. We group the sections of this chapter under four headings:
Chapter 4: Recommendations culls lessons from the previous chapters. The fi rst part of the chapters presents next steps for governments in implementing access rights while the second section presents ideas for access proponents to use to promote these reforms more generally.