The Public’s Views on impact of ground-breaking Environmental Rights Agreement for Latin America and the Caribbean

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The Public’s Views on impact of ground-breaking Environmental Rights Agreement for Latin America and the Caribbean

(PRESS RELEASE VIA SNO) – After more than 6 years of intense meetings and negotiations, a regional agreement on access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters otherwise known as Principle 10 will be finalized and adopted on Sunday, March 4th in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The public celebrates with the government delegates of the 24 Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries who have shown political will to raise standards for environmental rights in the region and specifically to put measures in place to protect environmental defenders who often come under serious threats while trying to protect the environment and their land rights.

The members of the public, including civil society organizations and individuals from across the region actively participated in the negotiation process providing their expertise on environmental issues. The public is proud to have helped shape this ground-breaking agreement which creates for the first time in this region legally binding obligations for States to raise the standards for access to justice in environmental matters across the region and recognize a duty to promote public participation in project, plans, strategies, rules and regulations among others in decision-making.

The following statements are from The Access Initiative (TAI) and various members of the public across the LAC region on the potential impact and significance of the first regional agreement on Principle 10:

“This is a historic moment for Latin America and the Caribbean. Countries in the region have an opportunity to pass a legally binding environmental rights agreement that will not only help prevent and punish attacks against environmental defenders, but also make it easier for millions of people to access environmental information, participate in decision-making that affects their lives, and hold powerful interests to account.” Carole Excell, Director of The Access Initiative and Acting Director, Environmental Democracy Practice, World Resources Institute.

“Colombia is the second most biodiversity rich country in the world but at the same time has one of the highest rates of socio-environmental conflicts and murders of environmental defenders. In 2016 there were 37 assassinations of environmental defenders according to Global Witness:

(https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/defenders-earth/). This agreement is a much needed tool for the protection of biodiversity and all those who protect the environment in Colombia. The recognition of access rights should contribute to improve the environmental management of the country and the guarantee of a healthy environment.” Natalia Gómez Peña – Researcher – Environmental Democracy Programme at Asociacion Ambiente y Sociedad and Elected Representative of the Public (Principle 10 process), Colombia.

“This Agreement is an opportunity for Caribbean countries to finally implement laws granting rights to their people to obtain environmental information, participate in decisions affecting the environment and to seek justice in environmental matters. The countries that participated in the negotiations: Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and Grenada, have shown foresight in engaging in a process that will radically improve the lives of their people. For small island developing states (SIDS) with particular vulnerability to natural disasters and impacts to climate change this will facilitate engaged and open dialogue to address these challenges.” Danielle Andrade-Goffe, Attorney-at-Law and Elected Representative of the Public (Principle 10 Process), Jamaica.

“Mexico needs more spaces for public participation in environmental matters as well as better access to environmental justice. This Agreement would allow Mexico to implement legal reforms in order to promote access to environmental rights, specifically access to justice in order to effectively execute environmental rulings in the courts.”

Andrea Cerami, Human Rights and Environment Manager – Mexican Center for Environmental Law, Mexico.

“In 2016 Brazil recorded 49 killings of environmental defenders, making it the highest in Latin America. https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/defenders-earth/). Therefore, a legally binding agreement is critical for us to protect our land and environmental defenders who will now have greater access to the rights enshrined in this convention. The Principle 10 treaty may help Brazil to reverse the trend of regressive environmental laws. This Regional Agreement could foster the improvement of the Brazilian legislation and institutions covering citizen’s rights to participate in the decision making of policies and programmes that affect or may create risks for environmental sustainability. The treaty will also be a reference for public servants and entities to strengthen environmental democracy, and to take actions to ensure the fulfilment of the fundamental right to a healthy environment.” Joara Marchezini, Access to Information Coordinator, Article 19, Brazil and Rubens Born, Fundação Grupo Esquel Brazil.

For Chile, this legally binding agreement means having an early participation process for projects that have an environmental impact. The only provision that Chilean law presently has is the right for people to send written comments to projects during 60 days, which unfortunately does not receive any feedback. Thereby, resulting in increased socio-environmental conflicts where people take to the streets, media and the courts to oppose the projects. With this convention citizens will have a clear procedure to be involved in the early stages of the assessment on any project.” Andrea Sanhueza Echeverría, The Access Initiative and Elected Representative of the Public (Principle10 Process), Chile.

“Latin America has a legally binding agreement which represents a powerful tool to overcome the lack of guarantees for our populations that have been systematically abused in their efforts to protect environmental, land and human rights. It will encourage greater collaboration to defeat the impunity that has made our hemisphere a dead zone for environmental defenders.” Georgina Jiménez – Coordinator – Investigación Recursos Naturales – CEDIB, Bolivia.

“In Peru, this Regional Agreement will mark a significant highpoint in the process of building our environmental democracy, as it will strengthen and guarantee the effective application of our rights of access to information, public participation and environmental justice in the design and implementation of projects, public policies and legal framework. It is particularly important for people and organizations that work in defense of human rights related to the environment, like our indigenous peoples, it means not only recognition, but a guarantee to fully exercise their rights. We will remain vigilant, with hope and expectation, of its full implementation. Aida Gamboa – Politologist – Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR) and Fátima Contreras – Lawyer – Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA), Peru.

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