The States Parties to the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean – known as the Escazú Agreement – celebrated this Thursday, April 22, the entry into force of the treaty , just on the same date in which the International Day of Mother Earth is commemorated.
Having reached the necessary ratifications on January 22, 2021, in accordance with the conditions required in Article 22, all the provisions of the Escazú Agreement enter into force as of today. To date, 24 countries in the region have signed it and 12 have already ratified it, becoming States Parties to the treaty.
In a virtual celebratory day organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the regional commission of the United Nations in charge of the Secretariat of the Agreement, authorities of the governments that have signed and ratified the legal instrument, representatives of international organizations , the public and civil society, reaffirmed the importance of the agreement, adopted on March 4, 2018 in the Costa Rican canton that bears their name, after six years of work and open, transparent and inclusive negotiation, and renewed their commitment to the protection of the planet and the people who defend it.
The event was opened by the Executive Secretary of ECLAC, Alicia Bárcena, and Epsy Campbell, Vice President of Costa Rica. Subsequently, a High Level Dialogue was held that included the interventions of António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations (by message); Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana; and foreign ministers, ministers and high authorities of the other States Parties: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Uruguay.
Also participating as special guests were Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP); Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE); Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (via recorded message); Andrea Sanhueza and Danielle Andrade, elected representatives of the public who have participated in the process. It also had the special participation of Carlos Vives, artist and composer, founder of the Tras la Perla Initiative, through an inspired recorded message.
In her welcoming remarks, Alicia Bárcena highlighted that the Escazú Agreement represents a tribute to Mother Earth and with it the region demonstrates its commitment to the protection of the planet and to those who, by defending it, take care of our life and our future.
“The Escazú Agreement urges us to reflect on the close link between human rights and the construction of a more sustainable, inclusive and inclusive development. It offers us a path of dialogue to advance in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development at a time as complex as the one that the region and the world are experiencing today. Ultimately, it guides our responses to build better ”, declared the highest representative of ECLAC.
Bárcena pointed out that in order to face the current challenges of the planet and build a new future and a transformative recovery with equality and sustainability, it is essential to reinforce the rule of law, strengthen a more participatory democracy, safeguard human rights and maintain peace, preventing conflicts. at the same time as our productive structure is being transformed.
“It is necessary to recover politics as an instrument of change to generate public goods and lasting pacts. Pacts that call for the widest and most diverse participation of social actors and that lay the foundations for the construction of the welfare state. We have to walk the path of sustainable development together ”, he emphasized.
“The emphasis of the Escazú Agreement on the creation and strengthening of capacities and on cooperation contributes to facing common challenges and reinforces regional environmental governance. Latin America and the Caribbean, therefore, is writing a new chapter in terms of strengthening environmental democracy and sustainable development ”, added Alicia Bárcena.
For her part, the Vice President of Costa Rica, Epsy Campbell, indicated that the Agreement contains the minimum tools necessary to ensure that natural resources are properly used, to demand that the authorities have fair access to information on environmental matters that can directly influence on the lives of citizens and to propose nature-based solutions for ecosystem health care.
“Today, April 22, is a glorious date for the inhabitants of our Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as for the entire planet. What better gift for Mother Earth, in her day, than to offer her our reiterated commitment to human rights that tend precisely to protect, honor and respect her ”, declared Campbell.
In his message sent to the meeting read by Alicia Bárcena, the Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, celebrated that the Escazú Agreement enters into force on the same International Mother Earth Day. He indicated that it is a historic milestone for the region, since it is not only the first environmental treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean, but it is also the first to include provisions for the promotion and protection of human rights defenders in environmental matters. “As we continue to face the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and intensify efforts to curb the triple crisis of climate change, the collapse of biodiversity and the pollution of the natural environment, the entry into force of the Escazú Agreement provides hope and inspiration, and lays the foundation for a sustainable and resilient recovery, ”he said.
In his video intervention, the President of Guyana, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, stated that both Latin America and the Caribbean should have a sense of collective pride due to their continued environmental leadership, as reflected in the adoption of this agreement.
“Guyana was the first country to ratify the Escazú Agreement. As a signatory, our country supports the right of access to environmental information, welcomes public participation in environmental decision-making processes, supports access to justice in environmental matters, and commits to working to ensure the right of each person to live in a healthy environment, ”he said.
For her part, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, sent a recorded message to the meeting in which she congratulated the countries that have ratified the agreement and encouraged the rest of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean to do so promptly.
“In the face of environmental damage and injustice, legal instruments such as the Escazú Agreement are one of the most effective tools to hold States accountable, defend rights and protect the health of people and the planet. It provides a critical voice for environmental democracy and is in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development commitment to leave no one behind. I welcome the significant public participation in the Agreement, with the important support of ECLAC ”, he specified.
At the end of the high-level segment, the renowned artist, composer and founder of the Tras la Perla Initiative, Carlos Vives, presented a music video and sent a message in which he highlighted the connection between music and nature and its protection.
“Through music I have been able to understand something fundamental: biodiversity is the basis of culture. The tradition in which my way of singing is inserted has its roots in the original peasant man, in his miscegenation, the one who knew how to celebrate nature with joy and inhabit it. When the diversity of the life of nature is lost, the music that is based on it is also lost … I celebrate this Agreement, a step forward in strengthening the instruments that we can count on as a society in the task of caring for the nature, because nature is ourselves. We cannot poison the springs of life. This Agreement is a firm step in that direction, ”he said.
The celebratory day on the entry into force of the Escazú Agreement continued with three panels that addressed the history of the treaty, which recalled the path traveled in the six years of meetings and negotiations, the role of youth in the Agreement, and environmental defenders and the Escazú Agreement.