Saint Lucia Thursday celebrated the third Anniversary of the adoption and endorsement of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This Environmental and human rights treaty, also known as the Escazú Agreement, was adopted and endorsed by 23 Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean including Saint Lucia, after nine rounds of intense negotiations on March 4, 2018.
After four years of robust public consultations nationwide, the island has by Cabinet Conclusion No.1447 of 2020, approved ratification on December 02 of this critical Agreement, which it became a signatory to on September 27, 2018.
The Escazú Agreement is the only treaty emanating from the Rio + 20 Conference which fulfills the application of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development as well as the first environmental treaty of the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN ECLAC) which contains provisions for the protection of environmental defenders.
The Agreement seeks to guarantee the rights of every person to live in a healthy environment and to sustainable development, being ever guided by the principles of equality, non-discrimination, intergenerational equity, and the balancing of economic, social and environmental concerns.
It also seeks to deepen environmental governance by strengthening community engagement in environmental stewardship, the generation and access to environmental information, and the prevention and remedy of environmental harm.
“We now have the task of putting in place the requisite institutional and procedural frameworks to ensure effective implementation of this Agreement; Though the road ahead may appear daunting, we have every confidence that we will navigate it well, for we have the support of the stakeholders who are central to this Agreement; We need to continue to work together as environmental issues affect us all; Climate change, land degradation, rising sea levels respect no colour, creed or class and accordingly we must set an example for those coming after us; Implementation will require determined collaboration and partnerships but we are excited as we have every confidence in ECLAC as the Technical Secretariat, to continue to provide us guidance and support in this task, “Minister with responsibility for Sustainable Development the Honourable Dr. Gale T. C. Rigobert said.
The Agreement will officially enter into force next month (April 22nd), which is also very fittingly celebrated as International Mother Earth Day.
Saint Lucia has continued to be at the forefront of the efforts to mainstream access rights to environmental information and justice by not only being the 12th. Country to ratify the Agreement but by also swiftly taking steps to put the legislative and institutional framework and the public awareness and sensitization in place to ensure its optimal realization.
The Department of Sustainable Development has already formulated a New Concept Note for the period March 2021 to April 2023, which will serve as a blue-print for the way forward in the implementation process. Implementation of this Agreement which embodies cooperation and capacity building will see the review of the legislative, institutional and procedural frameworks on the island, with assistance from the World Resources Institute (WRI). The Technical Secretariat to the Agreement which is the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN ECLAC) headquartered in Santiago de Chile also will provide technical assistance to countries signatory to the Agreement. A Voluntary Fund, Committee for Compliance and Implementation, and Clearing House are some structures which the Secretariat will be putting in place when it meets for its first Conference of Parties (COP), next year.