Research Handbook on Transparency
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Research Handbook on Transparency

Edited by Padideh Ala’i and Robert G. Vaughn

In the last two decades transparency has become a ubiquitous and stubbornly ambiguous term. Typically understood to promote rule of law, democratic participation, anti-corruption initiatives, human rights, and economic efficiency, transparency can also legitimate bureaucratic power, advance undemocratic forms of governance, and aid in global centralization of power. This path-breaking volume, comprising original contributions on a range of countries and environments, exposes the many faces of transparency by allowing readers to see the uncertainties, inconsistencies and surprises contained within the current conceptions and applications of the term.
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Chapter 15: The emerging norm of transparency in international environmental governance

David B. Hunter


Since the beginning of modern environmental law in the early 1970s, the right to access environmental information has been at the core of environmental protection efforts. This chapter addresses the prominence of transparency as an emerging norm of international environmental governance and the global pursuit of sustainable development. Many international environmental instruments are aimed at improving access to information, although perhaps not surprisingly the majority focus on ensuring that information is shared between State actors. Thus, governments have committed to sharing information about cross-border shipments of hazardous waste, genetically modified organisms, and toxic chemicals. Other environmental treaties ensure that neighboring countries share information about potential transboundary environmental impacts or about plans to develop shared rivers and lakes. Less common have been international requirements to share environmental information with the public. Rooted in both international human rights and the treaties and practice of international environmental law, the public’s access to information is one of three closely related procedural rights that have emerged as fundamental to environmental protection and sustainable development: (1) the right to access information (transparency); (2) the right to participate in decisions that affect your life and livelihood (inclusivity); and (3) the right of access to justice (accountability). This chapter focuses on the first right—that of transparency—but inclusivity and accountability are closely related and equally critical to the pursuit of sustainable development.

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