Latin America approves plan to protect environmentalists | News | EcoBusiness

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This happened at the third Conference of the Parties (COP3) to the Escazu Agreement, which was held in Santiago, Chile, from April 22 to 24.

The Escazu Agreement, which will enter into force from April 22, 2021, is a legally binding regional agreement aimed at protecting environmental defenders and promoting public participation and access to information on environmental issues.

The conference attracted more than 700 people, ranging from state political parties and civil society organizations to youth activists and indigenous environmental advocates.

Latin America and the Caribbean are considered by campaign groups to be the “world’s most dangerous place for activists”.

The Regional Plan of Action sets out priority areas and strategic measures to enact Article 9 of the Escazu Agreement, which requires States to recognize and protect the rights of environmental defenders and to prevent and punish attacks against environmental defenders. There is.

Graciela MartinezAmnesty International’s Americas activist told Carbon Brief that the action plan was “an important step towards implementing the Escazu Agreement”.

action plan

From 2012 to 2022, 1,910 environmental and land defenders were killed in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a 2023 report by the campaign group Global Witness. This accounted for 88% of all similar murders worldwide in the last 10 years, the report said.

All we need to protect nature is information. You need to know the steps to follow, where to touch, and how to do it.

Maribel Ek, indigenous leader of Homun

The Escazu Agreement emerged from the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and aims to guarantee the right to a healthy environment and sustainable development for current and future generations. This will be achieved, in part, the agreement states, by recognizing the important role that environmental and human rights defenders play in this regard.

Currently, 16 countries have ratified the Escazu Agreement, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, and Caribbean countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and St. Kitts and Nevis. A recent statement from Amnesty International noted that some of the countries that have not yet ratified the agreement, such as Brazil, Colombia and Guatemala, are among the most dangerous for environmentalists.

The action plan agreed at COP3 will be implemented from 2024 to 2030 and consists of four priority areas, each accompanied by strategic measures to comply with the goals.

  • Creation of knowledge.
  • recognition.
  • Capacity building and collaboration for national implementation.
  • Evaluation of action plan.

Knowledge creation refers to understanding the defender’s situation and identifying mechanisms to prevent and punish violations of the defender’s rights. Recognition measures require public recognition of the achievements of advocates.

The action plan obliges states parties to create and strengthen institutions that provide free legal assistance to environmental activists and training to judges and prosecutors, within the scope of national implementation.

Jesús Maya, a Mexican human rights activist and COP3 youth representative, told Carbon Brief:

“This is more than necessary for us to talk about environmental justice and people’s justice.”

Maya says that her consultancy company, Eheko, ensures that “alternative justice” such as “collective justice” is considered in the escazu process, as violence can be directed not only at individuals but also against entire groups. He added that he is working to maintain the policy. “Collective memory” of the slain garrisons “to avoid repeating the same problem.”

Maya said there are other examples of alternative justice. One is Colombia’s Special Peace Jurisdiction, which aims to provide transitional justice to victims of decades of armed conflict by providing the right to justice, truth and reparation. The other takes place in the form of truth commissions in Argentina, Peru, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia to uncover the truth about human rights violations by military dictatorships, authoritarian regimes, or internal armed conflicts. Established.

Indigenous demands

Teresita Antaz López, an environmental advocate from the Yanesha indigenous people who live in the rainforest of central Peru, told Carbon Brief that indigenous peoples had many demands at the COP.

López, who attended COP3 as part of the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle, said his first priority was to ensure effective participation in future negotiations. This includes having an Indigenous Caucus to represent them and an Indigenous Rapporteur to report violations within their territories.

Alice PivaThe Brazilian climate change activist and young ambassador for the Escazu Agreement told Carbon Brief that he wants young activists and advocates to be recognized for their leadership and to be included in the Escazu process. She explained that environmental justice also includes intergenerational justice, adding:

“It’s up to the younger generation to give them a boost.” [the Escazú Agreement] We will move forward to achieve this vision of a Latin America with a strong environmental democracy. ”

Mr. Piva also criticized the accessibility of the COP to Brazilian organizations, noting that negotiations are often conducted in Spanish and English, and less often in Portuguese.

Access to information

COP3 also addressed transparency and access to environmental information.

Maribel Ek, guardian of a cenote (deep natural well) in Homun, Yucatan state in southeastern Mexico, spoke at a side event hosted by Article 19 Mexico and Central America, an organization that promotes freedom of expression and access to information. Ta. told the audience that her community, which has 360 cenotes, had succeeded in shutting down a huge farm with 49,000 pigs in its territory after investigating farm permits and with the help of lawyers. Told. Ek said:

“In order to protect nature, all we need is information. We need to know the steps to follow, where to touch, and how to do it.”

Article 6 of the Escazu Agreement states: “Each party shall ensure the right of public access to environmental information in its possession, control and storage, in accordance with the principle of maximum disclosure.” .

However, during the event, speakers said that Latin America and the Caribbean region still falls short when it comes to information disclosure. For example, panelists noted that Peru lacks funding for training and disclosure for officials.

Lourdes Medina, a lawyer specializing in environmental and indigenous rights, spoke at a side event and said that if the right to access environmental information is not protected and guaranteed, other rights are also at risk. Medina said:

“Participation in civil resistance activities cannot be guaranteed. There are no adequate mechanisms for access to justice, and this has given rise to various forms of violence against defenders.”

Current implementation

During COP3, seven countries announced national plans (approved or in progress) to implement the Escazu Agreement. Ecuador, Argentina, Santa Lucia, Belize, Mexico, Uruguay and Chile all announced plans at the summit, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The COP also welcomed Dominica as the 16th party to the agreement.

Maya told Carbon Brief that plans to implement the Escazu Agreement are on hold as Mexico approaches national elections.

Ms Piva said she was working with civil society organizations to get Brazil to ratify the agreement. He said Brazil was also needed in the Escazu agreement, given Brazil’s size and leadership on economic issues, as well as regional networks such as Mercosur. She tells Carbon Brief:

“If Brazil does not ratify it or takes too long to ratify it, the agreement will no longer be effective, as Brazil is needed as a strong negotiator.”

According to the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA), the COP succeeded in incorporating public participation, including indigenous peoples, in the implementation of national plans.

Advocates and civil society organizations consulted by Carbon Brief emphasize the need for the COP on Escazu Island to be held annually rather than every six months, as protecting advocates is an urgent issue. Piva says:

“I think it’s unfair that the defenders are already threatened or in danger.” [wait] There are more than 2 years left [a tool] They demand that their countries protect them. ”

This article is published with permission from Carbon Brief.

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