The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention)and its Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs) are the only legally binding international instruments that embody the principle of participatory environmental governance that was affirmed in Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development adopted in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development that convened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Their powerful twin protections for the environment and human rights help to respond to many challenges facing the OSCE area: from climate change and disasters to water pollution and land degradation. They also help to ensure peace and security. They provide a solid and comprehensive framework for governments to engage the public effectively in sustainable development, in greening the economy and in setting and implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Both instruments are open for global accession.
Since 2002, the OSCE has been supporting the establishment, operation and networking of Aarhus Centres. The Aarhus Centres assist the governments in implementing the Aarhus Convention and assists the citizens in understanding and exercising their rights as brought by the Convention. Thanks to the close co-operation with UNECE Aarhus Convention Secretariat and with the support of the Environmental and Security (ENVSEC) Initiative, the Aarhus Centres network has been rapidly growing during the years reaching now a total of 60 Centres.