On Friday, October 27th, the Government of Hungary committed to improving its nation’s environmental governance and public access to information. The country will soon become the 8th national government to join the international Partnership for Principle 10 (PP10), an international coalition of governments, international organizations, and civil society groups committed to translating Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration into action by promoting transparent, inclusive, and accountable decision-making at the national level. The Partnership provides a venue for interested parties to work together to implement practical solutions that provide the public with access to information, participation, and justice for environmentally sustainable decisions.
Hungary’s commitments were announced by Dr. Gábor Baranyai, Head of Department, Ministry of Environment and Water. The specific commitments by the Government of Hungary need to be reviewed by current members of the Partnership before Hungary is formally admitted as a full member.
Hungary’s recent commitments included:
- Expansion of the Greenpoint Network: The Government recently established a “greenpoint” or “green dot” system made up of 29 offices of the Ministry of Environment and Water. The PP10 commitment means this network will be further expanded. The original network was created partly in response to an assessment of Hungary performed by the Hungarian nonprofit Environmental Management and Law Association, a member of The Access Initiative (TAI).
- Trainings on Aarhus for the Greenpoint Network staff: The Aarhus Convention (more formally known as the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters) was adopted in 1998. The Convention links environmental rights and human rights, and acknowledges an obligation to future generations. While extremely visible across Europe, even government officials tasked with honoring this committment often lack the capacity to implement it. Hungary has committed to training the staff of its Greenpoint Network to be able implement Aarhus in their everyday work.
- Improvements to the Ministry of Environment and Water’s web portal: The Ministry has committed to further develop its web portal in order to provide more up-to-date information for the public and support public participation in legislative drafting. The improved web resources will also expand the information available in English.
- Allocation of staff time to PP10: In order to make its commitment to PP10 meaningful, a government must assign staff and other resources to manage the commitment and ensure that commitments are honored. Hungary has committed such staff.
- Putting Aarhus on the agenda of an inter-ministerial committee on environmental programs: Hungary has committed to expanding the purview of the committee of the National Environmental Program of Hungary to include attention to Aarhus commitments.
Hungary joins the Governments of Bolivia (in process), Chile, Mexico, Indonesia (in process), Uganda, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom as formal members of PP10, for which the World Resources Institute serves as the global secretariat. PP10 partners, including national governments and civil society organizations, make specific commitments and partner on initiatives to improve access and participation within member countries. A full list of the partners, and more information on PP10, can be found at www.pp10.org.
Hungary’s announcement occurred almost simultaneously with the release of a long-awaited report (pdf) compiled by TAI partners on environmental democracy in select European countries: Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, and Ukraine. In addition, the report draws on pilot water case studies from Estonia and Ireland.
The summary of the TAI findings in Europe are:
- Legal frameworks strongly support meaningful implementation of access rights.
- Access to information is generally satisfactory in practice.
- Participation in decision-making exists, but can not guarantee that the public is heard.
- Access to justice is gradually opening up for environmental matters.
- Capacity building is severely needed but constantly struggles with resource shortages.