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Young Leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean Recognized for Their Work on the Environment

On the second anniversary of the adoption of the Escazú Agreement, a groundbreaking treaty recognizing environmental rights in Latin America and the Caribbean, five Youth Champions of Escazú from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were announced and honored at a ceremony in Santiago, Chile at the offices of UNECLAC.

The Escazú Agreement, adopted in 2018, aims to ensure access to environmental information, participation in environmental decision-making and, justice in environmental matters for people in countries across the region, and to decrease socio-environmental conflicts and protect environmental defenders. Currently, five countries have ratified the Agreement — Guyana, Bolivia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Uruguay. Eleven countries in the region must ratify the treaty in order to bring it into force and allow implementation to begin.

David Boyd, United Nations Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment, is already a Champion of Escazú.

The five new Youth Champions of Escazú are:

  • Nicole Becker, 19, from Argentina. Nicole is one of the co-founders of Young People for the Argentine Climate, a FridaysForFuture-aligned movement. She is a media spokesperson and avid writer on climate change, inequality and justice.
  • Sebastián Benfeld, 19, from Chile. Sebastián attends Alta Monte School in Quilpué.,He is a spokesperson for FridaysForFuture and an avid writer and promoter of democratic rights in Chile.
  • Kyara Cascante, 16, from Costa Rica. Kyara attends Liceo de Miramar High School and is a member of multiple student networks focused on environmental issues and political activism in Costa Rica.
  • Nafesha Richardson, 23, from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Nafesha is studying law and is the founder of SPARK SVG, a nonprofit youth organization that motivates, empowers and inspires young people to ignite positive change in their communities, with themes of planet, people, peace, prosperity and partnership.
  • Laura Serna, 23, from Colombia. Laura is an Afro-descendant studying human rights law, environmental law, and peace and post-conflict areas. Laura is an active volunteer and has conducted pro bono environmental work at the Legal Clinic of Public Actions at the University of Rosario.

Below is a statement from Carole Excell, Acting Director, Environmental Democracy Practice, WRI:

"The advocacy and voice of youth is critical to ensure the right to a healthy environment. These five young people are being recognized as Champions of Escazú for their leadership, commitment to actively promote the historic treaty in their country and communities, and dedication to advocating for the rights of all citizens and young people across the region.

"The Youth Champions come from Latin American and Caribbean countries that have provided leadership on the Escazú Agreement — Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

"The Champions of Escazú have an opportunity to engage on environmental rights with their governments and local communities. Environmental rights acknowledge the connection between people and the environment, the right people have to live in a healthy environment and the right to participate in decision-making. Young people have an important role in utilizing the provisions of the convention and ensuring greater awareness of the agreement."

Below is a statement from Andrea Sanhueza, a civil society negotiator who participated in the creation of the Escazú Agreement:

"We received applications from 58 young people from Latin America and the Caribbean and were astounded by their level of commitment to the environment and human rights. Many of them have personal knowledge of the challenges that environmental defenders face.

"With the Champions of Escazú, we now have five Champions who will help us lead on environmental rights and decision-making in the LAC region. We remain interested in staying in contact with all of the candidates. This initiative would not be possible without the help of Rosario Garavito from Peru, of the Millennials Movement and Benjamín Carvajal from Chile, of COY15. Together, with these Champions, we are a step closer to making the Escazú Agreement a reality."

Additional Background Information:

The Champions of Escazú is a joint initiative of The Access Initiative (TAI), the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN ECLAC) and the Government of Costa Rica. WRI serves as secretariat of TAI, a civil society network that has actively participated throughout the Agreement's negotiation and works closely with governments and UN ECLAC to arrive at a legally binding agreement.

The Champions of Escazú initiative invites civil society, activists, academics, multilateral organizations, business leaders, indigenous leaders, youth and other advocates to call on governments to ratify and effectively implement the Escazú Agreement. The initiative was launched on October 10, 2019, on the last day of the Pre-COP25, held in San José, Costa Rica, and the first Champion announced was David Boyd, United Nations Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment.