UN creates watchdog to police environment regulations

A groundbreaking legal watchdog has been created, charged with ensuring governments abide by a new international convention on environmental decision-making and information dissemination.

The Compliance Committee of the recently strengthened Aarhus Convention will, from October, have the right to consider complaints from individual citizens and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that their governments are not complying with its terms.

A memorandum from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) stated that the committee would “be obliged to make a determination on these cases. The development of an innovative compliance mechanism under the Aarhus Convention has been of particular interest to international lawyers.”

NGOs and governments can nominate candidates for the committee, who would henceforth serve in a personal capacity. Information held by the committee would only be confidential in limited circumstances, such as when the person complaining wants to remain anonymous.

UNECE’s director of the Environment and Human Settlements Division Kaj Bärlund said: “It’s crucial that we put more emphasis on implementing [international] agreements that have already been adopted.”