(PRESS RELEASE VIA SNO) – High energy mixed with anticipation filled the room as members of the public from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) met on February 27th in Costa Rica to put the final touches on their strategies to advocate for a legally binding treaty at the 9th Negotiating Meeting on Principle 10.
The negotiations scheduled to take place from February 28 – March 4, 2018 in San Jose, Costa Rica is the final round of negotiations for a regional agreement on access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters in the LAC Region.
At its core, Principle 10 advocates for the right of citizens to actively participate in decision making processes on environmental matters which affect them and promotes the right to legal recourse in cases where citizens have been negatively affected. This is particularly important for many Caribbean countries that still do not have laws which ensure access to information or early public participation ahead of large scale projects which often impact the environment and communities.
For Latin American countries, Principle 10 is particularly important because it would put innovative measures in place to protect Environmental Defenders who are often targeted, threatened and even killed because of their work to protect fragile natural resources.
“In 2017, almost four environmental defenders were killed each week for protecting their land, wildlife and natural resources. Latin America is the most dangerous region, with more than 60 percent of defender deaths in 2016 occurring in its remote villages or deep within its rainforests,” according to a blog by Mrs. Carole Excell, Acting Director, Environmental Democracy Practice at the World Resources Institute (Read the entire blog at http://www.wri.org/blog/2018/02/4-environmental-activists-are-murdered-every-week-new-agreement-could-help-latin).
While skeptics might believe that the Caribbean should not be concerned about implementing strict laws to protect Environmental Defenders, Mrs. Danielle Andrade-Goffe, Elected Representative of the Public for Principle 10 (Jamaica), disagrees. She said “In the Caribbean, environmental defenders have alleged physical attacks, death threats, harassment and intimidatory actions against them and their organizations for speaking out against projects.
In 2016 the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) responding to a petition brought by a Bahamian environmental group requested the Government of Bahamas to protect members of the group and their families. In support of their petition, the group provided evidence of death threats and a failed assassination attempt against the lives of one of their members.”
So what will a positive outcome look like from the public’s perspective? According to Andrea Sanhueza, Elected Representative of the Public for Principle10 (Chile), “The public wants to accomplish a legally binding agreement with robust standards that will allow citizens to get involved in decisions regarding the environment that will affect them.
The LAC region urgently needs this because national laws are restrictive on this matter and there is an increase in socio-environmental conflicts in all countries.” Ms. Sanhueza called on the millions of people in the region to show their support by disseminating messages in support of this agreement on social media using #Principle10 and supporting our outreach actions.
The public waits with bated breath to see if the 24 signatory countries will make the bold move to support a historic and ground-breaking legally binding agreement for the region or whether they will allow it to result, after 6 years of intense meetings, in a voluntary agreement with little expectation of governments to fulfil its guidelines. Our hope is for the former, but in a few days, we will know.
The negotiations can be followed live at https://negociacionp10.cepal.org/9/en/node/12. Countries willing to be a part of this transformative process can simply contact ECLAC at [email protected]