The Escazu Agreement entered into force on 22 April 2021, a regional treaty that enshrines the right of every person of present and future generations to live in a healthy environment and to sustainable development.
The first Conference of the Parties to the Escazu Agreement will convene within one year to adopt rules of procedure, including modalities for “significant participation by the public”.
At the event to commemorate its entry into force, UN officials encouraged the remaining Latin American and Caribbean nations to ratify the agreement as soon as possible.
The Escazu Agreement entered into force on 22 April 2021. This agreement, which was negotiated by governments in Latin America and the Caribbean, enshrines the right of every person of present and future generations to live in a healthy environment and to sustainable development. It is the region’s first environmental treaty as well as the world’s first agreement with provisions on human rights defenders in environmental matters, an issue of particular importance in the region due to risks for advocates and activists.
The Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean is the result of negotiations that followed the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Rio+20). The aim of the process was to support the realization in the region of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration.
The agreement was adopted in Escazú, Costa Rica, on 4 March 2018, the result of a negotiation process that featured significant participation of civil society representatives and experts in environmental law and human rights, according to commentary by IDDRI. The treaty then was opened for signature by the 33 countries of the LAC region. To date, 24 countries have signed it, and 12 of which have also ratified it: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Uruguay.
IDDRI reports that the signing and ratification process has been slow. LAC countries that have not ratified the agreement include Chile and Costa Rica, which served as negotiation co-chairs for the agreement, and Colombia, which was also active in the negotiations.
The agreement includes measures to create and strengthen capacities and cooperation, ultimately helping secure individuals’ right to a healthy environment. It mandates the operation of a virtual, universally accessible clearinghouse on access rights, to be operated by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) as Secretariat of the agreement. The agreement also establishes a Voluntary Fund to support the financing of its implementation.
The first Conference of the Parties to the Escazu Agreement must convene by the one-year mark of its entry into force to adopt rules of procedure, including modalities for “significant participation by the public.” The COP also must adopt financial provisions for the Agreement’s functioning and implementation.
Addressing the event to mark the entry into force on 22 April 2021, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the agreement sets the stage for a sustainable and resilient recovery from COVID-19 and the “triple crisis” of climate change, biodiversity collapse, and pollution of the natural environment. He also highlighted its focus on the most vulnerable and its rights-based approach.
Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC Executive Secretary, said the agreement offers a path to advance implementation of the 2030 Agenda by strengthening the rule of law, bolstering participatory democracy, protecting human rights, and preventing social conflicts amid changes to economies’ production structures. She said that with the Agreement’s entry into force, the LAC region is “writing a new chapter” in efforts to strengthen environmental democracy and sustainable development.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said legal instruments like the Escazú Agreement are one of the most effective tools for holding States accountable, defending rights, and protecting the health of people and of the planet.
The officials encouraged the remaining Latin American and Caribbean nations to ratify the agreement as soon as possible. [ECLAC press release] [ECLAC website for Escazu Agreement] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on youth champions for Escazu Agreement]