The blog article by the UNECE Executive Secretary Ms. Olga Algayerova addresses a potential impact of the Governments' response to the COVID-19 pandemic on procedural rights of public access to information, participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. It highlights the importance of complying with the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol’s obligations in the context of the pandemic, it looks into opportunities offered by the use of ICTs for civic engagement in face of the pandemic and calls for responsible and accountable use of such technologies.
The article stresses that all measures for the prevention, treatment and control of the pandemic that restrict these rights should be considered cautiously. The measures should adhere to international commitments, be limited to narrow circumstances, such as the duration of the lockdown, be proportionate to the pandemic situation and non-discriminatory and by no means put the rights themselves in jeopardy. Likewise, when moving to the recovery stage, existing environmental standards should not be rolled back in the name of economic recovery. On the contrary, upholding strong environmental democracy and integrating environmental concerns into recovery decisions will help us pave the way for economic development that is sustainable, environmentally viable, socially acceptable and healthy.