3rd Escazú Agreement Approves Important Decisions

Between April 22nd and 24th, the 3rd Conference of the Parties of the Escazú Agreement took place in Santiago, Chile, approving significant decisions such as the Regional Action Plan on Human Rights Defenders in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, the importance of having national focal points in countries, whether they are party countries or observers, to serve as contact points regarding Escazú, and the mainstreaming of gender perspective.

By Tarcísio Camêlo

The year was 2018 when the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean was adopted by 24 countries in Escazú, Costa Rica. Also known as the Escazú Agreement, the treaty establishes a set of obligations for the signatory countries with the aim of ensuring the full and effective implementation of the rights of access to environmental information, public participation in environmental decision-making processes, and access to justice in environmental matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We can consider the Escazú Agreement as a historic treaty for the region, being the first environmental treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the first international treaty with specific measures to protect environmental defenders so that they can act without threats, restrictions, and insecurity in the fight for a future where everyone has the right to live in a healthy and sustainable environment. The agreement operates on three pillars: access to information, social participation, and the protection of defenders, aiming to ensure that every citizen has the right to request and receive environmental information from public bodies, participate in decisions related to the environment, and have access to justice in cases of environmental violence. In addition to establishing measures for the protection of environmental defenders from any violence, threats, and intimidation. Thus, signatory countries must provide protection measures, such as security programs and prevention alert mechanisms, as well as investigate crimes against environmental defenders.

The Regional Action Plan on Human Rights Defenders in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, signed during the 3rd Conference of the Parties of the Escazú Agreement, has a duration of 6 years, from April 2024 to April 2030, aligning with the socio-environmental agendas of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. The Action Plan aims to establish a set of work priorities and strategic actions to be developed at the regional level, allowing for progress in the full and effective implementation of Article 9 of the Escazú Agreement, which recognizes important rights of human rights defenders in environmental matters and the corresponding duties of the Parties. The meeting also defined the 4 main lines of work aimed at acting in the areas of knowledge, recognition, capacity strengthening, and cooperation and support for implementation, emergence, and review.

Escazú Agreement in Brazil

The Escazú Agreement came into force in April 2021 and has already been ratified by 16 countries, including Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay. Despite Brazil being one of the signatory countries of the Escazú Agreement in 2018, it has not yet been ratified by the national congress. The approval of the agreement by the National Congress is considered extremely important for Brazil to improve its environmental policies and to strengthen environmental democracy and civil society participation in decision-making spaces that impact the environment, ensuring clear and accessible access to information, protecting environmental defenders from threats and violence, and combating environmental crimes and corruption in the environmental sector.

During the feedback session of the results of the 3rd Conference of the Parties of the Escazú Agreement in Portuguese, held on May 22nd, researcher Rubens Harry Born highlighted the need to approve the urgency regime for processing in the National Congress so that we can minimize and reduce the damages caused by the climate crisis. “The Escazú Agreement, because of Article 6, paragraph 5th, can help us face the climate crisis and reduce the damages, so it becomes extremely important for Brazil to address the climate crisis and the problems caused in the environment, so I appeal to parliamentarians and government officials to support the urgent processing and that we can still have the agreement approved this year,” says Rubens.

Rubens also emphasizes that the Escazú Agreement does not violate Brazilian regulatory framework, as it already has different sectoral environmental policies with the access to information law, environmental information systems, and social participation instances. “The Escazú Agreement respects national sovereignty, in fact, one of the principles of the Escazú Agreement is the principle of each country’s sovereignty over natural resources.”

Among the next steps related to political incidence to influence the Federal Executive and the National Congress for the ratification and implementation of the Escazú Agreement in Brazil are the realization of a set of actions through awareness-raising strategies, public hearings, articulation, and mobilization of society, as it is necessary to highlight the Escazú Agreement on the public agenda and prioritize it as urgent. It is important to make the subject public in the media, on social networks, and in political debate areas to become a public agenda with the aim of involving, sensitizing, and raising awareness among partisan political actors and parliamentarians, so that they assume the Escazú Agreement as part of their political agenda.

Rubens also highlights the challenges of Brazil ratifying the Escazú Agreement:

“One of the challenges involving the legislative branch is the lack of knowledge of Brazilian civil society and authorities about what the Escazú Agreement is, its importance, what Brazil already has as a basis, a history of socio-environmental participation policy, access to information. It is necessary to say that the Escazú Agreement does not scare our regulatory framework, as we have had enough experience and that we can advance and improve these norms and experiences.”

Social Movements

In the national context, social mobilization to raise awareness about the issue is associated with the articulation of civil society organizations, networks, coalitions, social movements, and citizens organized under the Escazú Brazil Movement, which has been working to promote the Escazú Agreement in the country. The main objectives of the Movement are to sensitize key individuals and the general population about the importance of the Escazú Agreement, to influence the Federal Executive and the National Congress for the ratification and implementation of the Escazú Agreement, and to promote the participation of Brazilian civil society in the Conferences of the Parties (COPs) of the Escazú Agreement. To learn more about the movement and its actions, visit the website: https://escazubrasil.org.br/

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