Contributor: The Access Initiative
People depend on a healthy environment for life and livelihoods. In order to safeguard the quality of the environment, it is essential to empower communities, individuals, and civil society organizations to take part in decision-making. Policies that provide access to information, opportunity for public participation, and access to justice have been critical in reducing pollution, improving environmental quality, and enforcing the law. Access to information motivates and empowers people to participate in an informed manner.
In the environmental and social context, public participation takes place largely, as a part of procedures to assess and to mitigate environmental harm, such as in preparation of environmental impact assessments, permitting processes, and through policy making and planning bodies such as legislatures and zoning boards. Additionally, some countries have regularized opportunities for public participation in formation of regulations and rules, which has significant consequences for lives and livelihoods. Findings from current governance literature show that, increasing public participation improves the legitimacy of decisions, helps build stakeholder capacity, improves implementation, and improves sustainability of decisions.
Access to information, meaningful participation, the redress of environmental harms, and the enforcement of law are guaranteed through “access to justice”. Access to justice is the right to redress and remedy and ensures accountability and rule of law. Redress and remedy can be provided by several different institutions, including the judicial branch of government, special administrative forums in the executive branches of government, extra-governmental dispute resolution mechanisms, and even traditional forms of mediation.Opening Government: Environment