Public Interest Litigation in the Netherlands – A Multidimensional Take on the Promotion of Environmental Interests by Private Parties Through the Courts
14 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2014
Date Written: June 30, 2014
In the Netherlands, the administrative law system is traditionally seen as best suited for dealing with public interest-related lawsuits. Especially in the field of environmental law, NGOs seeking to promote broader environmental interests regularly initiate judicial procedures before administrative courts in order to challenge land-use plans, environmental permits and other types of public orders that may have adverse impacts on local natural habitats and/or the environment more generally. However, over the past five years a number of developments have resulted in a more restricted access to administrative courts for environmental NGOs. It has been suggested that these developments may result in an increased reliance on public interest-related procedures before civil courts. This raises the question of what position public interest-related claims, like those against Shell for oil pollution in the Niger Delta and those against the Dutch government for its alleged failure to implement adequate climate change policies, currently have within the Dutch system of civil procedure. It also raises the question whether environmental NGOs in practice do have the broad access to Dutch courts that is required by international obligations, and whether room for improvement should perhaps be sought in the civil law domain.
Keywords: public interest litigation, environmental interests, Dutch civil procedure, Dutch administrative procedure, judicial activism, active citizenship
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