Environmental democracy is based on the idea that land and natural resource decisions adequately and equitably address citizens’ interests. Rather than setting a standard for what determines a good outcome, environmental democracy sets a standard for how decisions should be made. CIEL works to ensure that communities have the right and ability to influence decisions about their future.

At its core, environmental democracy involves three mutually reinforcing rights that, while independently important, operate best in combination: the ability for people to freely access information on environmental quality and problems, to participate meaningfully in decision-making, and to seek enforcement of environmental laws or compensation for damages.

Far too often, the public is not meaningfully engaged in decisions that could affect their health, livelihoods, and culture. These three key components – access to information, participation and justice – also known as “access rights” are reflected in Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. They are at the heart of environmental democracy, embodying the procedural dimensions of the right to a healthy environment.