Advanced

Accessing environmental information in Belarus - a comparative study on the implementation of the right

Engström Bubenko, Sara (2018) JURM02 20182
Department of Law
Faculty of Law
Abstract
This master’s thesis is based on a field study in Belarus. It investigates how the right to access environmental information according to article 4 of the Aarhus Convention (AC) has been implemented in the country and how the right works in practice.

Adhering to the view of comparative international law, according to which international law is seen as a social construct with fragmented and nation-specific properties, and to the emerging discipline of global environmental law, which regards environmental protection as a result of a plurality of legal mechanisms and orders, the study analyses the implementation of the right to access environmental information both from a formal and functional perspective. In doing so, it combines a... (More)
This master’s thesis is based on a field study in Belarus. It investigates how the right to access environmental information according to article 4 of the Aarhus Convention (AC) has been implemented in the country and how the right works in practice.

Adhering to the view of comparative international law, according to which international law is seen as a social construct with fragmented and nation-specific properties, and to the emerging discipline of global environmental law, which regards environmental protection as a result of a plurality of legal mechanisms and orders, the study analyses the implementation of the right to access environmental information both from a formal and functional perspective. In doing so, it combines a doctrinal method with socio-legal methods, consisting of the collection and analysis of quantitative data together with qualitative interview material. The findings are then analysed in relation to various legal, political and historical factors specific to Belarus.

Even though Belarusian legislation has mostly been aligned with article 4 of the AC, there are problematic aspects of the formal implementation of the right. Belarusian law enables that environmental information is classified as official information for limited distribution through a procedure enshrined in a decree to the Law on Information, Informatisation and Information Protection (No. 4553 of 10 November 2008) which in itself is classified. This legal construction undermines an effective formal implementation of the right to access environmental information and highlights a broader issue in Belarusian legislation with confusions about the hierarchy of legal norms.

The interview study reveals that many members of the Belarusian public regard requesting environmental information as a complicated exercise and deem authorities difficult to approach. There is also wide-spread distrust regarding the quality and validity of environmental information and suspicions that public authorities withhold, and even distort, sensitive or unfavourable environmental information. Consequently, incentives to employ alternative strategies to obtain useful environmental information arise. The perceived difficulties with obtaining environmental information seemingly relate to nation-specific factors such as the vertical power structures of Belarusian public authorities; limiting the real executive powers of authorities on the lower levels. Furthermore, they hinder an effective enforcement of the right to access environmental information.

The quantitative data reveals that Belarusian authorities frequently fail to comply with the national legal provisions about access to environmental information; most often by not responding to requests or by not submitting the information in the requested form or within the prescribed time frame. Failures to comply with applicable legislation could be attributed to a lack of knowledge and possibly also to the vertical power structures of the authorities. However, it has seemingly become easier to obtain environmental information on request in the last few years. This trend cannot be properly explained by the findings of the study but signals a positive development of the right to access environmental information in Belarus. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Engström Bubenko, Sara
supervisor
organization
course
JURM02 20182
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
public international law, administrative law, environmental law, international environmental law, global environmental law, socio-legal research, Aarhus Convention, Belarus, access to environmental information
language
English
id
8965980
date added to LUP
2019-02-08 16:02:19
date last changed
2019-02-08 16:02:19
@misc{8965980,
  abstract     = {This master’s thesis is based on a field study in Belarus. It investigates how the right to access environmental information according to article 4 of the Aarhus Convention (AC) has been implemented in the country and how the right works in practice.

Adhering to the view of comparative international law, according to which international law is seen as a social construct with fragmented and nation-specific properties, and to the emerging discipline of global environmental law, which regards environmental protection as a result of a plurality of legal mechanisms and orders, the study analyses the implementation of the right to access environmental information both from a formal and functional perspective. In doing so, it combines a doctrinal method with socio-legal methods, consisting of the collection and analysis of quantitative data together with qualitative interview material. The findings are then analysed in relation to various legal, political and historical factors specific to Belarus. 

Even though Belarusian legislation has mostly been aligned with article 4 of the AC, there are problematic aspects of the formal implementation of the right. Belarusian law enables that environmental information is classified as official information for limited distribution through a procedure enshrined in a decree to the Law on Information, Informatisation and Information Protection (No. 4553 of 10 November 2008) which in itself is classified. This legal construction undermines an effective formal implementation of the right to access environmental information and highlights a broader issue in Belarusian legislation with confusions about the hierarchy of legal norms. 

The interview study reveals that many members of the Belarusian public regard requesting environmental information as a complicated exercise and deem authorities difficult to approach. There is also wide-spread distrust regarding the quality and validity of environmental information and suspicions that public authorities withhold, and even distort, sensitive or unfavourable environmental information. Consequently, incentives to employ alternative strategies to obtain useful environmental information arise. The perceived difficulties with obtaining environmental information seemingly relate to nation-specific factors such as the vertical power structures of Belarusian public authorities; limiting the real executive powers of authorities on the lower levels. Furthermore, they hinder an effective enforcement of the right to access environmental information. 

The quantitative data reveals that Belarusian authorities frequently fail to comply with the national legal provisions about access to environmental information; most often by not responding to requests or by not submitting the information in the requested form or within the prescribed time frame. Failures to comply with applicable legislation could be attributed to a lack of knowledge and possibly also to the vertical power structures of the authorities. However, it has seemingly become easier to obtain environmental information on request in the last few years. This trend cannot be properly explained by the findings of the study but signals a positive development of the right to access environmental information in Belarus.},
  author       = {Engström Bubenko, Sara},
  keyword      = {public international law,administrative law,environmental law,international environmental law,global environmental law,socio-legal research,Aarhus Convention,Belarus,access to environmental information},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Accessing environmental information in Belarus - a comparative study on the implementation of the right},
  year         = {2018},
}