Adopted in 1998, the Aarhus Convention (AC) is an environmental agreement linking environmental rights and human rights, government accountability and environmental protection. It ensures public participation in the negotiation and implementation of international agreements through interaction between the public and public authorities.
The compliance mechanism of the Aarhus Convention is quite unique: it represents a combination of issues and in addition to the usual triggers included in the compliance regime of other MEAs, triggering is allowed for any member of the public who can write to the committee. Another important feature of this mechanism is that the compliance committee is independent, not made up of parties, but of individuals. It is a non judicial process, but rather consultative and not confrontational. It is a mechanism aimed at facilitating the start of investigations. So far, only one case was a party versus another party case (Romania v Ukraine). The compliance committee was elected in 2002.
The approach of the compliance committee of the AC is very liberal since it allows for triggering possibilities together with light powers of the committee: the major power of the committee is to bring cases to the parties of the AC. In the majority of cases the parties have endorsed the proposals of the compliance committee at the MOP level. In concrete terms, the powers of the committee and of the MOP are quite limited and the “named and shamed” is the major power of the system. Only in a few cases did the committee and MOP not agree with each other.
The secretariat of the AC is rather small: a five person professional staff and a two person secretarial staff.
Enforcement within the AC is based on the reporting mechanism: the AC is an interesting model since, once again, what it distinguishes it from others is the role of the public. The national implementation reports to be assessed by each MOP are based on information obtained in consultation with public. This has contributed to the much higher reporting rate of the AC in comparison with other MEAs. At MOP1 26 out of 30 parties submitted their reports in time. The system appears to be very effective. In other MEAs the reporting rate has a much lower percentage.
Another important issue is that the contents of the report are prepared through consultative process: input from the public, usually environmental NGOs. The role of the public is another example on how to strengthen the reporting mechanism.
One problem is related to the issue of language. Cases are very complex and supportive documentation is very often issued only in original language.