“the public means one or more natural or legal persons, in accordance with national legislation or practice, their associations, organizations or groups.”
According to the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (1998) “the public means one or more natural or legal persons, in accordance with national legislation or practice, their associations, organizations or groups.” The Århus Convention differentiates between “the public” and the “concerned public”, the latter basically meaning that part of the public which will probably be affected by, or which has a “special interest” in environmental decision-making. So the public does not include decision-making bodies or “bodies or institutions acting in a judicial or legislative capacity” like the European Court of Human Rights or the International Court of Human Rights. As this terminology is specifically derived from the Århus Convention, which will be further explained later in the chapter about legislation, it is important to also consider yet another definition.
A very simple definition is presented by the Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe (REC): the public are “people or organizations who do not represent the government” (pp. 36). The REC definition basically supports the Aarhus definition, even though it was publicized some years before in 1994.
The Aarhus Convention, on the other hand, claims that the public consists of just about anyone who wants to be involved and/or has an interest in the matter.
In this Wiki, the Aarhus Convention definition will be used. This is mainly because it is much easier in this case to use a broader definition: when a narrower definition is used it might call for unnecessary exceptions that can complicate matters. Also, the Convention is one of the most important international pieces of legislation concerning public participation in environmental issues.