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Geneva hosts discussion on new Environmental Democracy Index

The Access Initiative and the World Resources Institute (WRI) have launched the first Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) designed to help measure progress in countries towards strengthening access rights to information and justice and public participation, key to sustainable development.

On 9 June, UNITAR and the Geneva Environment Network Secretariat organized an event presenting and discussing this new tool with the EDI developers Lalanath De Silva and Jesse Worker, as well as key stakeholders.

New insights offered

Based on an internationally-recognized set of guidelines, the Index offers new insights into the state of environmental democracy around the world and is the first to measure how national laws protect environmental democracy rights.

According to the developers, the Index is a tool that could support global policies to strengthen environmental democracy. Launched on 20 May 2015, the EDI evaluates 70 countries across 75 legal indicators, based on objective and internationally-recognized standards established by UNEP’s Bali Guidelines. EDI also includes a set of 24 limited practice indicators that provide insight on a country's performance in implementation.

National laws and practices were assessed and scored by more than 140 lawyers around the world. Country assessments were conducted in 2014 and will be updated every two years. All scores – which are provisional until 30 August 2015 - are validated in a comprehensive review process in which both governments and civil society get an opportunity to express their opinion and suggest adjustments.

Index seen as crucial starting point

During the 9 June event, an interactive panel discussion was held with Jan Dusik, Director of the UNEP Regional Office for Europe; Maria Cristina Cárdenas Fischer, Chief of the Technical Assistance Branch of the Basel, Rotterdam & Stockholm Conventions Secretariat; Biruté Abraitiene, Minister Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Lithuania to the United Nations Office in Geneva; Yves Lador, Permanent Representative of Earthjustice and Marc Hufty, Professor at the Graduate Institute.

Despite some practical limitations to the index methodology, EDI was seen to serve as a crucial starting point for international and cross-cutting discussions between governments, civil society organizations and the broader population. One contentious issue raised was that formal compliance with procedural rules in environmental matters may nonetheless produce negative outcomes, highlighting the importance of qualitative assessments of legal and legislative procedures.

More than 100 countries will be included in the next EDI, partly in order to better represent certain regions, especially Africa. Mr Dusik underlined the qualitative importance of the index, and the possibilities of linking it with UNEP Live. There is potential for capacity building between the countries searching for best practices for each guideline. As pointed out by Yves Lador from Earthjustice among others, scores and rankings are not enough - dialogue behind information is very important.

For more information: EDI website -

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