Environmental agreement awaits signatures

The Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has said that the first Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (the Escazú Agreement) will open for the signature of all the countries in the region on Sept. 27 at United Nations headquarters in New York.

ECLAC said the event will take place in the framework of the general debate of the 73rd session of the global organization’s General Assembly.

The Escazú Agreement — so named because it was adopted on March 4 in the municipality of Escazú in Costa Rica — is the region’s first environmental agreement, ECLAC said.

It said the agreement is the only one of its kind in the world, “since it includes specific provisions regarding defenders of human rights in environmental matters.

“It is the first legal instrument to have emerged thus far from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Río+20),” ECLAC said.

ECLAC said the ceremony will be headed by the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, Miguel de Serpa Soares.

It will include participants such as the President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, and Chile’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roberto Ampuero, in their capacity as co-chairs of the process, along with other heads of government, foreign affairs ministers and ministers of the region, as well as Alicia Bárcena, the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which holds the Technical Secretariat of the Agreement.

ECLAC said that, from Sept. 27 onward, any state that has signed the Regional Agreement will be able to ratify, accept or approve it.

Ratification, acceptance or approval can be undertaken immediately after the signature, ECLAC said.

It said to enter into force, the Agreement will require 11 States Parties.

In addition to the official delegations from signatory countries, ECLAC said other potential participants in the ceremony include intergovernmental organizations and related entities that have observer status with the General Assembly, as well as non-governmental organizations that are in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

ECLAC said their access to the hall will depend on the availability of space in the room and prior obtention of the corresponding grounds passes.

“The Escazú Agreement seeks that all persons have access to timely and reliable information, can participate in an effective way in the decisions that affect their lives and their environment, and can access justice in environmental matters, thereby contributing to the fulfillment of the (UN) 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” ECLAC said.

“This is an agreement made by us, for us and the generations to come,” Bárcena said.

“It is a visionary instrument, without precedent, a second-generation environmental treaty because it explicitly links environmental matters with human rights and guarantees procedural rights that are essential for adequately implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” she added.

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