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STATEMENT: 6 Latin American, Caribbean Countries Ratify Treaty Providing Protections for Environmental Defenders

NEW YORK (September 26, 2019) — At the 74th United Nations General Assembly, five countries — Bolivia, Jamaica, Uruguay, Saint Kitts and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — ratified the Escazú Agreement, an historic treaty that guarantees environmental rights in the region, provides special protections for environmental human rights defenders and ensures people can play a part in the decision-making necessary to address climate change.

In 2018, more than three people were murdered each week, with countless more criminalized, for defending their land and our environment, according to a report from Global Witness. Environmental defenders protect and effectively manage natural resources that are essential to limiting greenhouse gas emissions and putting the world on track to a low-carbon economy.

To date, 20 countries have signed onto the agreement — Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Guyana has already ratified the agreement. Eleven countries must ratify the treaty in order to bring it into force and allow implementation to begin.

Today is the anniversary of the opening of signatures for the treaty. The Agreement presents fundamental rights for sound environmental governance: access to information, access to public participation and access to justice. The Escazú Agreement is designed to make it easier for nearly 500 million people to access information, participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives and hold powerful interests accountable. The agreement is the first in the world that seeks to have States in the region guarantee adequate and effective measures to recognize, protect and promote the rights of human and environmental defenders and prevent attacks, threats or intimidation.

Following is a statement by Carole Excell, Acting Director, Environmental Democracy Practice, World Resources Institute:

“We are thrilled that five more countries in the region, Bolivia, Jamaica, Uruguay, Saint Kitts and Saint Vincent, have now joined Guyana in ratifying the Escazú Agreement, an historic treaty that recognizes people’s rights to receive information from their governments and participate actively in decisions that directly relate to our greatest environmental challenges of this generation — challenges like climate change, ocean pollution and deforestation.

“We congratulate all the countries that have signed and ratified the Escazú Agreement. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have an important opportunity to sign and ratify this landmark treaty, including Chile, which is hosting COP25 this year. We would encourage other countries to follow suit to show their commitment to environmental rights that are at the heart of the success of the Paris Agreement.”

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