Representatives of Latin American and Caribbean countries meeting at ECLAC’s headquarters in Santiago, Chile, agreed to enshrine the protection of people fighting to defend human rights in environmental matters in the regional agreement that they are negotiating on access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters (known as Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development).
This was one of the main outcomes of the Eighth Meeting of the Negotiating Committee of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters, which concluded this Friday, December 1.
At the gathering, government delegates, representatives of the public and experts from international bodies also made other important advances on the final text of the legal instrument. For example, they reached agreement upon the articles on access to justice in environmental matters, and on the strengthening of capacities and cooperation; they also approved the majority of general obligations.
In addition, they approved the Agreement’s main objective, which seeks to guarantee the full and effective implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean of the rights of access to environmental information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, as well as the creation and strengthening of capacities and cooperation, contributing to the protection of the right of each person and of present and future generations to live in a healthy environment and to sustainable development.
As the eighth meeting concluded, participants recognized the significant agreements and definitions made on the text compiled by the Presiding Officers during this week of negotiations, and they agreed to continue discussing the legal document’s pending articles (11 through 25) at the next meeting, which will be held in San José, Costa Rica during the first quarter of 2018.
To achieve that goal, they also resolved to carry out intense inter-sessional work prior to the ninth meeting and asked the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to continue coordinating flexible working modalities, as Technical Secretariat of the process.
In the closing ceremony, the representatives of Chile and Costa Rica – as the countries co-chairing the Negotiating Committee of the Regional Agreement – thanked the important work done by all the delegations, the facilitators and ECLAC, which allowed participants to make perhaps the most progress on the final text of all meetings carried out before. “This shows the will to achieve consensuses,” they indicated. “As the President of Chile and ECLAC’s Executive Secretary said at the inauguration, the fate of protecting the environment and the human rights of 500 million people is at stake in this room, and that is why it is so important.”
Likewise, civil society delegates thanked the “serious and dedicated” work of the negotiating groups, ECLAC and the members of the public who participated in the gathering. “Important guarantees have been achieved to protect those people who, on a daily basis and running different risks, defend the environment – a task that has gone unrecognized for decades and that has top priority in the countries of our region,” they indicated in a statement.
Meanwhile, Carlos De Miguel, Chief of the Policies for Sustainable Development Unit of ECLAC’s Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division, also expressed gratitude for participants’ commitment to the process, which translated into the achieved outcomes. “The work done in the last few months has been impressive and the results are now on display,” ECLAC’s representative underscored.