YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS DEMAND THE ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE ESCAZÚ AGREEMENT
As young people, we understand the immense health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated injustice and disproportionately harmed vulnerable communities across the world. Because of this, young people from South America, Central America, the Caribbean and North America have come together to urge the entry into force of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean also known as the Escazú Agreement.
The Agreement was adopted in Escazú, Costa Rica on March 4, 2018 after six years of negotiation, becoming the first Regional Treaty of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Of the thirty-three States in Latin America and the Caribbean, twenty-two States have signed it. As for the eleven remaining States, it is imperative that they sign the Agreement by September 26, 2020, so that they can participate in the decision-making process. Additionally, the Agreement has achieved nine ratifications out of the eleven ratifications needed for its official entry into force. However, it is necessary to clarify that September 26 only represents the deadline for signature, not future ratifications or accessions. As September 2020 marks two years since the Agreement was open for signing, the prompt ratification and implementation is paramount to the success of the Agreement to benefit the public.
Originating from “Principle 10” of the
Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,
the Escazú Agreement is the first legally binding environmental Human Rights treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean. The citizens of the region are the main beneficiaries—in particular, the frontline communities most vulnerable to the climate crisis who are often environmental defenders who face Human Rights violations. The Agreement secures the right of all people to have free access to environmental information, participate meaningfully in decisions that affect their lives and their environment, and be protected by the law if these rights are violated.
Additionally, the Agreement provides essential legal provisions to protect the rights of defenders of the environment who face persecutions and murder. It also seeks to avoid conflicts that have increasingly affected the States of the region because of extractive projects, such as the fracking projects in Colombia, the planned oil exploration and extraction in Costa Rica, the development of the Mayan Train in Mexico, the illegal deforestation in Argentina, the violation of Indigenous rights in Peru, pollution of waterways in from increased development Grenada, and the increase of illegal sand mining in Saint Lucia, among many others. Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the most vulnerable regions to the Climate Crisis. The increase in temperature of just 1.1° C has resulted in increasingly intense hydrometeorological effects, including sea level rise, ocean acidification, and many others directly concerned with Human Rights and Food, Health and the Right to Life. If the temperature increases further, these effects will be magnified, especially affecting frontline communities. Latin America and the Caribbean only contributed to less than 10% of the overall total of greenhouse gas emissions in 2014. Nevertheless, according to an ECLAC report in 2018, its land use change and agriculture contributed to 42% of the greenhouse gas emissions in 2014, compared to the global average of 18%.
This region has the characteristic of having a large number of defenders, who are mostly Native, dedicated to protecting the biodiversity and ecosystems that are necessary to prevent damage to the environment, even if this means putting their own lives at risk. According to the Global Witness, by 2019, 212 murders were committed against defenders worldwide, of which 148 were from Latin America.
Protecting environmental defenders and improving democratic participation in environmental decisions is crucial to halting the destruction of the environment and solidifying the commitment to action on the Climate Crisis.
We have an urgent responsibility to fight for a sustainable future, with prosperity and respect for all forms of life and their rights in present and future generations. Therefore, we demand the signature of the remaining States and the necessary ratifications for the prompt entry into force of the Escazu Agreement, which would signify a historical milestone in the protection and progression of Human Rights and Environmental Justice.