NGOs Shaping Public Participation Through Law: The Aarhus Convention and Legal Mobilisation

Carolyn Abbot, Maria Lee

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This article explores the relative neglect by environmental NGOs—at least until recently—of the middle, public participation, pillar of the Aarhus Convention. This can be seen in litigation, as well as in political advocacy, both domestically and at the international (Aarhus) level. Interviews with some key actors in this area and analysis of published documents provide insights into NGO decision-making. The limits of law become clear—Aarhus rights are made real only through the commitment of governments and civil society. A nuanced combination of internal and external factors contributes to explaining the lack of NGO attention to Aarhus’ middle pillar. We may also see some indications that NGOs envisage participation as a process properly dominated by expertise. This is far from uniform, however, and other parts of the community clearly appreciate and value the significance of lay participation in the environmental arena.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85–106
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Environmental Law
Issue number1
Early online date28 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024


  • rhus Convention, public participation, NGOs, legal mobilisation, interviews


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