Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Environmental Law & Climate Change Department report | Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean
The Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (better known as the Escazú Agreement) is the first regional environmental treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its objective is to guarantee access to information, public participation, and access to justice rights in environmental matters and to protect environmental defenders.
The Second Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 2) of the Escazú Agreement was held in Buenos Aires from April 19 to 21. COP 2 of the Escazú Agreement was extraordinary and was convened to elect the first seven members of the Implementation and Compliance Support Committee, a subsidiary and advisory body whose objective is to promote and assist the Parties in the implementation of the Agreement in their territories.
Representatives of the 15 States Parties to the Agreement were present, including Chile, Belize, and Grenada (the most recent ratifiers) and 8 delegates from observer countries. Representatives of the public, social organizations, and representatives of the United Nations were also in attendance.
COP 2 concluded with the adoption of Decision II/1, which formalized the election of the members of the Committee, who were elected by consensus, prioritizing equitable distribution according to territory and gender, and was composed of the following members:
– Guillermo Eduardo Acuña (Chile);
– Mariana Blengio Valdés (Uruguay);
– Rita Leonette Joseph-Olivetti (Granada);
– Patricia Madrigal Cordero (Costa Rica);
– Andrés María Napoli (Argentina);
– Carole Denise Angela Stephens (Jamaica); and
– Félix Wing Solís (Panamá).
Members will serve four-year terms, with the exception of Rita Leonette Joseph-Olivetti (Grenada), Patricia Madrigal Cordero (Costa Rica) and Carole Denise Angela Stephens (Jamaica) who were chosen by lot to serve six-year terms.
The three non-elected members are Born, Rubens Harry (Brazil), Carrillo Fuentes, Juan Carlos (Mexico), and Mitchell, Gavern Sherva (Trinidad and Tobago) and may be called upon by the Board to fill a vacancy when it is declared.
In addition, a political declaration entitled “Declaration of Buenos Aires” was approved, which highlights the role of the rights of access to information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental matters in the promotion of human rights and sustainable development. It also reiterated the need to obtain adequate support for the implementation of the Agreement, including the functioning of the Implementation and Compliance Support Committee, and welcomed the launching of the Voluntary Fund with the contribution of Mexico, the announcement of a contribution from Chile and other future declarations of contributions.
As a result of the Buenos Aires Declaration, the countries pledged to continue working to make progress on the issues to be addressed at the Third Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 3) to be held in Santiago, Chile, from April 22 to 24, 2024.
The results of the First Annual Forum of Environmental Human Rights Defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Quito, Ecuador, were also presented, and it was announced that Panama will host the second forum, which will be held in September 2023 and will aim to continue advancing in the development of an action plan to protect environmental defenders.
In turn, all signatory and non-signatory countries were encouraged to become Parties to the Escazú Agreement as soon as possible.
During COP 2, emphasis was placed on the need to promote integration as a region; the importance of guaranteeing public participation, especially that of indigenous peoples, whose representatives had the opportunity to attend and express their requirements; and the urgency of adopting a plan to protect environmental defenders, among other issues.
Also, in the special session “Comparative experiences of enforcement and compliance support bodies”, in which the experiences of the implementation of different committees of other international agreements with relevant environmental content were presented. The panelists emphasized that once Committee members are elected, they cease to be representatives of their countries and become impartial experts. In this regard, the importance of members being independent, impartial and guaranteeing effective transparency in the execution of the different activities was highlighted.
Specifically, in the case of the Escazú Agreement, the importance of guaranteeing access to the system and effective participation was emphasized, through the implementation of mechanisms with effective scope and the intervention or collaboration of experts with specific knowledge, and the implementation of protection measures for those who may be at risk or threatened as a result of the fight for the protection of environmental human rights.
In addition, the special session on Follow-up to Decision I/6 on human rights defenders in environmental matters underlined the importance of groups and organizations being able to act without being threatened. In this regard, it was reported that a Regional Action Plan will be presented at the next COP, which is currently being worked on the presentation of the draft index, which will be prepared with the participation of the public through an open consultation process that will be carried out, guaranteeing the principle of maximum disclosure and with the participation of indigenous peoples.
During the session, the public was invited to participate and numerous representatives of indigenous peoples from different countries in the region demanded more spaces for participation and greater effectiveness, guaranteeing spaces that are not only virtual due to the lack of connection in some places. They also asked Member States to implement early warning systems for environmental defenders. Furthermore, they criticized the Committee, arguing that it should have been intercultural, and called for a special aggravated criminal offense for those who attack native people or communities.
 Antigua y Barbuda, Argentina, Belice, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Granada, Guyana, México, Nicaragua, Panamá, San Vicente y las Granadinas, Saint Kitts y Nevis, Santa Lucía and Uruguay.