A partnership convened by the World Resources Institute

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions

What does EDI measure?

The Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) is the first online public platform that tracks countries’ progress in enacting national laws to promote transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement in environmental decision making. It also provides some key insights into areas of practice. The index evaluates 70 countries, across 75 comprehensive legal indicators and 24 limited indicators of practice, based on objective and internationally recognized standards established by the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Bali Guidelines. It draws on national laws and practices that were assessed and scored by more than 140 lawyers around the world. Country assessments were conducted in 2014 and will be updated every two years. EDI was developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in collaboration with partners from The Access Initiative (TAI) around the world.

What are the UNEP Bali Guidelines?

The UNEP Bali Guidelines on the Development of National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters were adopted in 2010 by then UNEP Governing Council (UNEP now has universal membership). Their purpose is to provide general guidance to governments to help them fulfill their commitments to Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration. Policymakers can use them to assist in filling gaps in legislation and regulations and to facilitate broad access to information, public participation and access to justice. WRI and TAI developed EDI indicators within the framework of the UNEP Bali Guidelines to better enable governments to set benchmarks and track progress. Click here to download the UNEP Bali Guidelines.

What Does EDI NOT measure?

While EDI assesses the content of a country’s Constitution, freedom of information laws, major environmental legislation across several sectors, and case law where appropriate, it does not provide a comprehensive measurement of implementation of the law, nor does it assess laws at the subnational level. The reason for this is methodological. It can be time-consuming and difficult to find lawyers with local expertise who can conduct a comprehensive assessment of practice, and all of the subnational legislation enacted in the 70 countries assessed. However, WRI/TAI is considering expanding the research to include these features in future versions of EDI. WRI/TAI acknowledge that federal countries may, in some cases such as Australia, have enacted legislation at the subnational level that would enhance environmental democracy rights. EDI also does not measure civil society’s space (the degree to which civil society can function free of harassment or persecution), the pervasiveness of corruption, or the extent to which human rights are respected, upheld, or enjoyed in a country. While fully acknowledging that these elements can play critical roles in determining how well environmental democracy  rights may be realized or enjoyed by citizens, the purpose of the inaugural EDI is to set a benchmark by measuring the extent to which these rights have been established or recognized as legal rights in a country’s legal system at the national level.

How do the practice indicators work?

The supplemental indicators on practice provide a limited set of key insights into how environmental democracy rights may be manifested in practice. The results of these indicators are presented qualitatively and do not figure in the legal indicator scores. At this stage in EDI’s development, they are not comprehensive and should not be taken as proxy for the implementation of environmental democracy at the national level. However, they should provide users with important insights and highlight areas of good practice or where additional work needs to be done.  In future editions of EDI, we expect to increase the number of practice indicators and explore the possibility of including other research methods that might describe a country’s implementation status more fully than in this edition.

Why are practice indicator scores kept separate from the legal indicator scores?

Because the practice indicators are not comprehensive and there is no one-to-one relationship between legal indicators and practice indicators, their results are kept separate. Thus, the practice indicators do not figure into the rankings and are presented as qualitative results.

How were the countries selected?

The countries in the inaugural EDI include those from North America and the Caribbean, South and Central America, Europe, Africa, and Asia who are part of the Access Initiative network. It also includes countries that have joined the Open Government Partnership. Finally, there are a few countries included from Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific, who are not part of either network.

How were the lawyers selected?

Two lawyers from each country with environmental and administrative law experience were contracted by WRI. The lawyers were nominated by civil society organizations and experts in the field of environmental democracy. Both lawyers were required to be credentialed and experts in the law of the country that assessed, with at least five years of experience. The lawyers were required to be independent and unaffiliated with each other. Lawyers predominantly came from the civil society and academic sectors, with some coming from government and the private sector.

Which laws were included in the assessment?

The Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) measures the quality of laws and other legally binding rules at the national level in providing and protecting the rights of access to information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental matters. It does this through 75 indicators developed under the framework of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Bali Guidelines for the Development of National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters.[1] These voluntary guidelines are internationally recognized, having been adopted by the UNEP Governing Council in 2010. The legal indicators assess laws, regulations, and any other legally binding rules in the following sectors:

  • The Constitution and interpretations of the Constitution by competent bodies (e.g. The Supreme Court or Constitutional Court)
  • The main national freedom of information law, public participation law, and access to justice law (including access to administrative justice), if these exist
  • The apex environmental management law
  • Laws and regulations governing pollution control (including air and water quality laws), environmental impact assessments, terrestrial biodiversity (protected areas and wildlife), extractive industries, and forests
  • Laws governing the creation of environmental policies
  • Interpretations of these laws through case law

The 2014 EDI did not include marine, coastal, fisheries, or energy production and distribution laws in its assessment.

How were the indicators scored?

The indicators were scored by the first national lawyer, who came from civil society, academia, or the private sector. They were then independently reviewed by the second national lawyer, who indicated agreement, agreement with additional comments, or dissent. They were then reviewed twice more at WRI by at least one more lawyer (sometimes two). Indicator responses that elicited disagreement were sent back to the first lawyer for her/his response. In the event that sufficient justification was not provided to maintain a score, WRI reserved the authority to alter the score, while providing an explanation for doing so. The final results were reviewed and summarized at WRI by another lawyer. Finally, several members of The Access Initiative team compared results across the index to ensure consistency of indicator scoring. 

When did the research take place?

Researchers for the 70 countries conducted the assessment between April and September of 2014, with some finishing as early as May. Laws, regulations, or practices that went into force after this time period will be considered in the next version of EDI.

How often will EDI be conducted?

WRI plans to conduct the EDI assessment every 2 years.

Will there be any changes to the methodology?

WRI will convene partners to discuss and address any potential methodological changes, including an expansion of the practice indicators.

What does a “good” score on EDI mean?

While there are nuances to the findings that derive from EDI indicators, a “good” score on all three pillars of the EDI generally means the national legal framework grants the public the right to: (1) access comprehensive environmental information, (2) give input on a broad range of environmental decisions, and (3) hold governments and private actors accountable for violating environmental rights. On the contrary, a “fair” or “poor” score means either that the law provides wide discretion to government agencies on whether to release information, involve the public, or make justice accessible, or that the requirements are limited to very few types of environmental decision making (e.g., the public can only participate in environmental impact assessments for infrastructure projects).

Are these results final?

EDI results were released in beta version on May 20, 2015. Governments and civil society were invited to submit disagreements with any indicator scores until July 15th. Scores became final on September 15th, 2015. However, WRI will continue to accept comments at any time.

What are potential biases and how were they addressed?

Biases have been reduced to the extent possible within the adopted research method.  Separate evaluation of the indicators, sources, explanations, and scores were conducted by two local lawyers independent of each other. These evaluations were reviewed by WRI staff, with further reviews by civil society groups in the TAI network and by governments. All of these steps help to reduce bias.  However, other safeguards, such a double blind scoring by the first two local lawyers, were not applied.  Additionally, each legal culture has approaches to legislation and its interpretation.  Broadly the common law, civil law,  law in the former Soviet bloc, and Islamic juridical traditions may differ in the way they approach legislation, its content, import, and interpretation.  The method adopted respects these individual juridical traditions and looks only to whether the elements searched for in each indicator are present within the meaning of that country’s tradition.  As such it is not possible to standardize legislative language approaches or interpretation across all countries and local juridical approaches are present in scoring and reasoning.

What do these scores say that is meaningful?

They allow users to understand which countries (of those assessed) have legal protections in place for environmental democracy. The results may reveal legal protections that civil society can use to advocate for their rights. If these protections are not being enforced, then it enables advocates to focus their attention on implementation and enforcement.

 

[1] Bali Guidelines can be accessed here: http://www.unep.org/civil-society/Portals/24105/documents/Guidelines/GUIDELINES_TO_ACCESS_TO_ENV_INFO_2.pdf

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