Environmental Justice Program
The Environmental Justice Program (EJP) aims to improve environmental justice by initiating key networks, conducting research, promoting legal remedies, and establishing implementation capacity.
In recent years, a number of countries have begun to address a phenomenon known as “environmental injustice” or “environmental racism”. These terms represent the observation that members of ethnic minorities, communities of lower socio-economic status and the least educated disproportionately: 1) suffer from exposure to environmental hazards due to their proximity to hazardous waste sites, incinerators, factories, and other sources of pollution, and/or 2) are denied environmental benefits such as water, sewage treatment facilities, sanitation, and access to natural resources. This assertion has been supported by research in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, and now in Central and Eastern Europe.
In 2003, EJP embarked upon an important effort to promote environmental justice in Central and Eastern Europe. Through two intensive workshops financed by PHARE and the Open Society Institute, lawyers, activists, and academics from environmental and human rights backgrounds in Central and Eastern Europe came together and launched an initiative to address environmental injustice. As a result, the Coalition for Environmental Justice (CEJ) was created (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/coalition_environmentaljustice). This initiative was later joined by activists, lawyers, and academics working on environmental justice in the United States culminating in the Transatlantic Initiative on Environmental Justice in collaboration with the California Cultures in Comparative Perspective at the University of California, San Diego and the Institute for Culture and Ecology and supported by the Trust for Mutual Understanding and the Roma Participation Program of the Open Society Institute.
In 2006, the EJP joined forces with the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) to investigate the health aspects of environmental injustices and generate a policy framework for environmental justice in Europe. A report, Making the Case for Environmental Justice in Central and Eastern Europe, is the culmination of ongoing efforts to promote environmental justice as well as a compilation of evidence that demonstrates the need for the work ahead to build environmental justice in Europe.