The Access Initiative<br />Improving Environmental Data through Freedom of Information<br />
The Access Initiative 2010<br />
The Access Initiative
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The Access Initiative

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The Access Initiative by Joseph Foti, Senior Associate, World Resources Institute

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  • This presentation represents a small sliver of the work of The Access Initiative, a global network that has been working at the forefront of environmental transparency for more than a decade. For more information, please contact Joseph Foti Senior AssociateInstitutions and Governance ProgramWorld Resources Institute(202) 729-7640fax (202) 729-775910 G Street NE Suite 800Washington, DC 20002http://www.wri.orghttp://www.accessinitiative.orghttp://twitter.com/TAI_Globalhttp://twitter.com/foti_WRI
  • This is Kholed and he lives in Pontang Village, downstream for the IndaKiat Pulp and Paper Mill, one of the largest pulp mills in Asia. Here he shows prawns from his farm along the banks of the Serang river. Since the Mill has been operating, discharging “black liquor” into the Serang, he argues that his shrimp have grown at a slower and slower rate. A few years back, Kholed argues, these shrimp would have been twice their size this time of the year.Of course, we don’t really know what’s in the water. Indah Kiat and the Ministry of Environment assure us that they are in full compliance with the law and that the law is adequate to product agriculture and human health.When the communities ask for the evidence that this is the case, at best, they are assured that they can trust the government, but that the documents will not be available. More often, they are ignored.
  • Both Indonesia and Thailand have seen massive industrial booms in the last several years since the Asian Financial Crisis. The new growth in industry has helped many in the country, but communities like Kholed’s living downstream often suffer. According to UNEP, more than 70percent of Indonesia’s population of 220 million depends on water obtained from potentially contaminated sources. Unsafe drinking water leads to diarrhea, a second leading cause for the mortality rate of children under five and accounts for approximately 20 percent of child deaths each year. According to the Ministry of Health, at least 3 in 10 Indonesians, annually suffer from water-borne diseases, including cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever.Likewise, The World Bank has reported that almost a third Thailand’s total available water sources are unsuitable for human consumption due to water pollution.
  • The Access Initiative, a global organization of more than 200 NGOs in 50 countries has been working since 1998 to open up information held by their governments, to promote access to information, public participation, and access to justice, which we collectively call “Access”.The network works to assess laws and practice around access to information to tackle the challenge of developing sustainably.Led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) with partners around the world, we work with national coalitions of NGOs to identify what information they need to help strengthen their own institutions for better pollution control, land use planning, and better service delivery.In Thailand and Indonesia, WRI works with groups under the leadership of The Thailand Environment Institute and the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law. In each country, massive pollution problems cause social unrest and tremendous loss of life and livelihoods.At the same time, each country has recently strengthened the toolkit available to environmental and human rights advocates through new Freedom of Information Laws. However, these laws are either poorly implemented or not well used by members of civil society.
  • WRI, working with these groups, hopes to capitalize on this exciting political moment, working with communities in need and local environmental law organizations to use the Freedom of Information Law to request critical information about the state of their community. By doing this, we hope to improve both the implementation of the Freedom of Information Law and the existing environmental statutes. Our process follows a clear strategy.- Identify needed environmental information across 6 stages of decision-making (above) for ambient pollution sources, mobile pollution sources, and point pollution sources (polluting facilities);- Identify if there is legal mandate for collection and release of such information- Identify whether this information is publicly available- Where the information is not available, file a Freedom of Information (FOI) request- Monitor and track the fate of the FOI request- Follow through the FOI Request, including appealing any denials of information to the appropriate tribunal Publish results and stories of requests to the mediaWe are in the first year of this project, and have already nearly quintupled the number of requests of an environmental nature made to the FOI mechanisms in the country. Initial results are troubling and suggest weak linkages between granting a pollution permit and actual monitoring and enforcement.In the next year, WRI with ICEL and TEI will publish the results of our analysis which will examine how well the freedom of information laws and other environmental regulations are functioning.
  • The Access Initiative

    1. 1. The Access Initiative<br />Improving Environmental Data through Freedom of Information<br />
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