5 keys to understand what the Escazú Agreement is

On April 22nd, the Escazú Agreement came into force, here we give you 5 keys to understand what this resolution is about and how it affects Latin America and the Caribbean .

Aerial view of a mountainous landscape

On April 22, the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean entered into force. Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: 5 claves para entender qué es el Acuerdo de Escazú

What is the purpose of the Agreement?

It is known as the Escazú Agreement, but its name really is the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean , and as its name suggests, it is It is an international agreement that aims to reconcile the protocols for the protection of the environment and its defenders of the 24 signatory countries. It should be noted that of the 46 countries that make up the region, only 24 have signed and only 12 have ratified their participation . Furthermore, this is the first agreement of its kind in the region and the first in the world that also specifically focuses on the protection of environmental defenders.

This process began on June 22nd, 2012, within the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Conference (Rio + 20) and had a preparation process that ended on November 10th, 2014 with the Santiago Decision. Negotiations took until March 2018 and the signature process began on September 27th, 2018 at the United Nations Assembly in New York. On September 26, 2020, the deadline for countries to sign was finalized. The treaty entered into force on April 22nd, 90 days after the participation of at least 11 countries already signatories and was ratified in the United Nations General Secretariat.

Here are 5 keys to understand what the Escazú Agreement consists of.

1. A response to an environmental and social conflict

Latin America and the Caribbean is a region that has been directly affected by an environmental conflict that has a social impact . According to the Defending Tomorrow 2020 report of the Global Witness organization, two thirds of the murders of environmental activists that are committed in the world take place in this region, with Colombia the country that takes first place, followed by Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and Venezuela respectively. Likewise, the Amazon is the area that is most affected by this problem.

Thus, this agreement is a response to the problem that has been little or hardly visible, with the objective of providing mandatory protection to people who day by day strive to defend the natural resources that our unique biodiversity offers us.

2. Knowledge is power

One of the themes that is standard within the agreement is that of access to environmental information. The countries that are part of the Agreement must commit to allow easy access to updated, responsible and truthful data and information regarding the environment for the people. This allows, first, governments to enter into the obligation to provide information at the request of the public , and, second, the public can also access it and therefore be more aware of the environmental problems of the region and of the actions that can be taken to help solve such problems.

3. Principles governing the agreement

In order to implement the Agreement, ECLAC presents 11 principles by which each action taken in it should be governed:

  • principle of equality and principle of non-discrimination;
  • principle of transparency and principle of accountability;
  • principle of non-regression and principle of progressivity;
  • principle of good faith;
  • preventive principle;
  • precautionary principle;
  • principle of intergenerational equity;
  • principle of maximum publicity; 16 Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
  • principle of permanent sovereignty of the States over their natural resources;
  • principle of sovereign equality of States;
  • and pro person principle.

4. An agreement to save the future

The Escazú Agreement seeks to generate a change in the short, medium and long term, so that the governments of the region and the people who live in them, can contribute to creating actions that have a future impact. We know that the threat of climate change is here and now, so the entry into force of the agreement gives way for the signatory governments to take responsibility for the environmental and social damage caused so far (in many cases at the hands of said governments) and can prevent and avoid future damage.

5. Disclosure is the most important part

The purpose of this agreement is to provide environmental information, so disclosure plays a very important role. It has been reached the council that the signing parties must have resources so that, systematically, the information does not remain in documents or in closed offices, but is disclosed to the general public in an understandable and above all reflective way, so that awareness of the need to pay attention to the environment in the region.

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