Latin American & Caribbean Countries Sign Agreement to Protect Environmental Defenders
The Escazú Agreement made a mark on history after being signed by Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Peru, St. Lucia, and Uruguay on September 27. The new agreement guarantees environmental rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. The agreement also makes it easier for citizens to access information and participate in the decision-making processes of environmental topics.
Additionally, the agreement also sets specific measures to protect human rights defenders from threats and attacks, investigate their cases and punish accordingly, and guarantee their basic human rights.
The treaty, signed during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, is also known as the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters, or simply as the LAC P10.
Erika Guevara-Rosas clarified that “simply signing the Escazú Agreement is not enough. Signatory countries must now swiftly ratify it and take concrete measures to ensure that the treaty lives up to its ambitious ideals so that the environmental decisions truly reflect the views, needs and rights of those most impacted by them.”
The President and CEO of the World Resources Institute, Andrew Steer, highlights the urgency of the agreement’s correct implementation by stating that “typically, last year four environmental defenders were killed each week and 60 percent of these deaths were in Latin America. We need to do much more to protect people, their land and their rights.”
Conflicts still remain in place in some of the countries that did not participate in the agreement. In Colombia, where tensions due to environmental degradation are constantly escalating, two relatives of environmental defenders were killed less than a week after the signing of the Escazú Agreement.
According to Amnesty International, “as of [September 27], all 33 states in Latin America and the Caribbean have the opportunity to sign the agreement at the UN headquarters in New York. At least 11 countries must sign and ratify it by 27 September 2020 for it to come into force.”