An effective information policy is fundamental to involving the public as partners in promoting a better environment.
Electronic information technologies, and especially the Internet, are opening up new opportunities for providing the public with streamlined, low-cost and timely access to environmental information. Effective communication with the public and active dissemination of information are essential elements in the development and implementation of environmental policies. Governments are urged to apply various measures to encourage use of the media to promote environmental objectives.
Information should be made available to the public in an accessible and user-friendly manner. This will usually involve interpretation, structuring and analysis of information according to the needs and interests of the public, though always without prejudice to the right of access to the original data. State-of-the-art internet web sites linking databases on emissions to environmental media (in the form of geographical information systems) with databases on the health implications of toxic chemicals have demonstrated that there is a dramatic increase in the public use of information when the information is presented in a user-friendly form through an electronic "one-stop-shop". There is also a need to provide NGOs and the public with better information on how to interpret data on environmental and health issues.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
Agenda 21 recommends that countries, in cooperation with the scientific community, should establish ways of employing modern communication technologies for effective public outreach. National and local educational authorities and relevant UN agencies should expand, as appropriate, the use of audio-visual methods, especially in rural areas in mobile units, by producing television and radio programmes for developing countries, involving local participation, employing interactive multimedia methods and integrating advanced methods with folk media.