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About Us

The Green Access Project

1. Purpose

The public participation, as stated in the Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, has now its importance commonly recognized throughout the global society as well as in Japan. In order to promote it effectively and meaningfully, it is considered essential to integrally guarantee the following three rights:
 (1) Access to information
 (2) Participation in decision-making
 (3) Access to justice
In this project, we call them jointly the “Green Access Rights”.
The Green Access Project aims to build a system of participation and cooperation in which collective environmental activities generate synergistic effects in such a way that it guarantees the Green Access Rights and the creation of a sustainable society.

2. Background

The notion of the Principle 10 was concretized by the “Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters” (Aarhus Convention). In addition, the “Guidelines for the Development of National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters” (Bali Guidelines) was adopted in 2010 in order to promote the Principle 10, especially in developing countries. While the effectiveness of the Aarhus Convention is observed in many countries, it is also true that there are many approaches to implement the Principle 10 and that better models for cooperation are being sought. They vary depending on the field, as well as social and cultural conditions. Therefore, it is important to make a comparative study among the various countries and regions, and to share their good practices.

3. Japan’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Historically, environmental litigation, such as the four major pollution cases, has played significant roles for the progress of environmental policies and law in Japan. Furthermore, in Japan, grassroots activities such as recycling, the conservation of secondary nature resources (Satoyama and Satoumi) and energy saving are popular, making Japan one of the few countries where the voluntary approaches of the public and businesses have had an effect to some extent. In addition, since the early 1990s, council systems (constituted by different actors) and proposal systems have been introduced through various laws. Thus, it seems that Japan has been experiencing remarkable developments in the public participation field.
However, there have been complaints from both the public and the public administration. For example, a usual complaint of the former is “our opinions have never been reflected in public policies, no matter how much efforts we make to participate in discussions”. An example of the latter’s complaints is “no innovative ideas are submitted, no matter how much effort and time we put into cooperative procedures”. People have begun to question how effective cooperative measures to build a sustainable society are. Thus, a situation in which people feel tired of cooperating seems to be emerging. In addition, there are many specific cases which remain difficult to resolve, such as the Yamba Dam issue, the US-base-related environmental issue in Henoko (Okinawa), and nuclear power plant issues in many regions. All those demonstrate that we are in the limit of our current social structure. Innovation from a new perspective (Innovation in Cooperation) will be indispensable to gain the involvement of the public in environmental matters and promoting civil activities.
Thus, the Green Access Project aims to propose appropriate public participation and cooperation models for the Japanese society that also meet global standards while, at the same time, preserving the historic significance and originality of the Japan’s leading pollution cases outcomes.

4. The Green Access Project Ⅰ

The first phase of the Green Access Project has been executed from 2010 to 2013. The official name of this project was “Cooperation Innovation for Sustainable Society – Implementation Measures of the 3 Aarhus Principles in Japan.” It was sponsored by the Funding Program for Next Generation World-Leading Researchers (Council for Science and Technology Policy in Cabinet Office, the Government of Japan). During this period we have focused on the following:
 Comparative studies of the green access, focusing on the Parties of the Aarhus Convention.
 Questionnaire surveys on the actual situation of the public participation and cooperation in Japan.
 Making the database of the ordinances concerning public participation at the local level.
 Making the database of the legal provisions concerning the new types of public participation at the national level.
 Reviews of consultation models in the field of transportation and proposals for innovation.

5. The Green Access Project Ⅱ

The second phase of the Green Access Project consists of the following two pillars.
(1) Making Indicators for Participation Principle
Conventional comparative researches on participation legislation do not necessarily reflect the exact extent the law contributes to protect citizen’s rights or develop an environmental democracy. Indicators assessing the actual performance of the law are essential to enhance the Participation Principle effectiveness. The first pillar of the Green Access Project Ⅱ focuses on elaborating international legal performance indicators on the Participation Principle in Environmental Law and promoting an environmental democracy through this process. The official name of this work is “Review of Legal Indicators for the Participation Principle in Environmental Matters – Promotion of an International Cooperation towards Strengthening the Environmental Democracy” which is supported by the Grants-in-Aid for scientific research by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).
(2) Possibilities for an Asian version of the Aarhus Convention
The Aarhus Convention, although opened to any State, has been only ratified by the UNECE members. The Latin-American and Caribbean countries are now planning to have their own regional instrument about Principle 10 under the ECLAC framework. In contrast, there have been no remarkable movements in Asia until now neither to ratify the Aarhus Convention nor to make its own regional instrument. However, the green access rights have been strengthened dramatically in the last 20 years in some Asian countries. In order to accelerate this tendency effectively, it is crucial to analyze and discuss the common characteristics and issues of each region, and to share its good practices. In this context, the second pillar of the Green Access Project Ⅱ focuses on discussing the possibilities for an Asian version of the Aarhus Convention. The official name of this work is “Proposing an Asian Version of the Aarhus Convention – Constitution of an International Cooperation for Implementing the Environmental Justice” which is supported through Mitsui & Co., Ltd., Environment Fund.

6. Our Logo: the Woodpecker

The logo of our project is the woodpecker, which symbolizes nature, awakening, and continuation – the wish that we will be able to continue working little by little to open doors for the green access together with a wide range of the public.

 Research Representative
Noriko Okubo (Professor, Graduate School of Law and Politics, Osaka University)