ELAW advocates from around the world are fighting to hold governments accountable for including legally required information on official websites.

EPL Staff, Liza Aleksyeyeva (far right)

Recently, Ukraine’s Environment-People-Law (EPL) advocate Liza Aleksyeyeva wrote to ELAW, “I am happy to share with you the following news. On August the 30th, District Administrative Court of the city of Kyiv ruled on the case brought by Environment-People-Law against the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Ukraine regarding ministerial official web-page. In the lawsuit… EPL claimed that the absence of information on main responsibilities of the departments of the Ministry, on multilateral environmental agreements, reports on their implementation and enforcement, and the state of realization of environmental programs is illegal. The court declared defendants’ actions to be illegal and ordered the Ministry to change its webpage in order to comply with the law. Furthermore, the court ordered the Ministry to report to the court within one month after the decision becomes effective as to what they have done to execute the decision.”

In their arguments to the court EPL relied upon access to information principles established in the “Aarhus Convention” (officially, the “UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters”) to which Ukraine is a signatory.

EPL also drew the court’s attention to the lack of electronic access to national assessments on the state of the environment, nor to any lists or registers of polluters, registers of permitting decisions and many others.

ELAW partners around the world responded with congratulations and descriptions of similar problems in their own countries.

One advocate from the Philippines wrote, “What an inspired case and a nice victory!! We too have so many laws requiring the production of so many of these plans and annual status reports and they are never on websites. One just has to assume they don’t have a plan as required by law, or if they do, they don’t want anyone to measure them against the plan.”

Another from Russia wrote, “This is very important victory for promotion of the Aarhus principles especially in the EECCA countries!”

Carla Garcia Zendejas, an ELAW partner in Mexico, shared the positive outcome of her efforts to require accountability from the Mexican government for placing required information on its websites:

“This is a marvelous victory!! I should share some of our experience in Mexico with the government’s mandatory requirement for publication of a broad list of information online. I have been part of efforts in the state of Baja California to push for the proper implementation of the municipal and state websites by carrying out citizen monitoring and then grading of the government’s work. Which is then presented statewide in press conferences –the 9th was held last August. (This all comes after the evolution of our Transparency Law and the inclusion of language pertaining to electronic and digital access to public information in our Constitution as well.)

It has only been through this public pressure and systematic monitoring of each of their mandatory responsibilities to present: employee names, assignments, salaries, budgets, rules, memos, meeting minutes, role call, voting history, agreements, programs, bidding processes, annual reports, financial reports, income, expenses, suppliers, and many other data that the websites have improved.

I congratulate your efforts and this great victory and hope that before long you may see needed changes!”

These victories in Ukraine and Mexico are just a sample of the important work ELAW partners are doing around the world to ensure access to the information we need to make informed decisions about our environment.

Glenn Gillis
ELAW IT Manager