STATEMENT: Escazú Agreement Moves A Big Step Closer to Making the World Safer for Environmental Defenders
WASHINGTON (January 22, 2021)—The Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean – otherwise known as the Escazú Agreement – was acceded to by Mexico and Argentina today and can officially enter into force in 90 days, on Earth Day. Mexico and Argentina join Antigua & Barbuda, Guyana, St. Vincent, St. Kitts and Nevis, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay and St. Lucia in showing political will to defend human rights and foster human-centered development.
The Escazú Agreement is historic as the first treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean designed to protect environmental defenders across the region, while making 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 was first adopted in Escazú, Costa Rica, on March 4, 2018, on what would have been the birthday of Berta Caceres – a Honduran environmental defender and former winner of the Goldman Prize who was tragically murdered two years earlier. The agreement provides unprecedented special protections for environmental defenders like Berta, including: 1) guaranteeing a safe environment for people and organizations so they remain free from threats, restrictions and insecurity; 2) taking steps to recognize, protect and promote the rights of environmental defenders; and 3) implementing measures to prevent, investigate and punish attacks, threats or intimidation against environmental defenders.
So far, 24 countries total have signed the Escazú Agreement, 10 countries ratified the legally binding agreement, and 2 acceded (after the signature deadline). A number of countries are making significant progress towards accession, like Colombia, Jamaica and Costa Rica.
Following is a statement from Carole Excell, Director, Environmental Democracy Practice, World Resources Institute:
“The Escazú Agreement will make the world safer for environmental defenders if it is implemented effectively. The agreement entering into force is a landmark moment for everyone who believes people have a right to a healthy environment and the ability to speak up to protect it.
“WRI congratulates all 12 countries that are parties to the Escazú Agreement and encourages more to join. The agreement’s entry into force shows momentum within civil society, environmental defenders and social movements across Latin America and the Caribbean. This groundbreaking agreement – which includes obligations for governments to ensure protection of environmental defenders and recognize environmental rights – is critical to ensure a just and fair recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild trust between governments and the public.
“To succeed, the Escazú Agreement needs support from the international community, including funding and capacity building from other regions; and more signatories across Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Following is a statement from Andrés Flores Montalvo, Climate and Energy Director, WRI México:
“Mexico has been an active promoter of civil society participation in environmental policymaking. Its contribution to open multilateral climate negotiations to non-governmental organizations is also widely recognized. We celebrate the ratification of the Escazú Agreement, as a further step towards securing access to information and environmental justice for all Mexico’s citizens.”