Environmental justice, and the human rights context of land rights and environmental defenders has been a huge issue – especially in our hemisphere – for some years now. Sadly though, it has not been given a very high profile in the media. I should have already written on this topic – and still plan to write about some of these incredibly courageous men and women, who face danger on a daily basis. I should write about brave human beings like 44 year-old Berta Caceres, Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader of her people, who was murdered on March 3, 2016, after years of threats on her life. Global Witness has reported that 2015 was the worst year on record for these attacks on citizens seeking to protect their lands from big mining and logging companies – often ancestral lands owned by threatened indigenous groups that have lived there for centuries. Community leader Antonio Isídio Pereira, who was trying to defend lands from logging companies, was one of 50 such killings in Brazil alone last year. The list goes on, and on.
Unfortunately, there is often collusion and corruption between big corporations and governments at the local and/or national level, allowing this to happen and giving little or no protection to citizens seeking to stand up for their rights. This cannot be allowed to continue any longer. I am sharing below a very important release from the 5th Negotiating Committee Meeting for a Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters taking place in Santiago, Chile. It is written by Karetta Crooks Charles, who is a journalist, Communications & Advocacy Officer at the Saint Lucia National Trust and Alternate Elected Representative of the Public for the LAC Principle 10 Declaration. Here’s a little background on Principle 10: At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 20-22 June 2012, ten Governments from Latin America and the Caribbean (including Jamaica) endorsed the Declaration on the application of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, in which they reaffirmed their commitment to rights of access to information, participation and justice regarding environmental matters, declared their willingness to work towards a regional instrument promoting the full application of those rights and requested the support of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) as technical secretariat. Dominica is the 23rd country to have signed the Declaration to date. It remains open for signature by all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Below also are details of how one organization in St. Lucia is seeking to raise awareness on Principle 10 through music. Are governments in the region now ready to protect their own citizens and the lands they seek to preserve from predatory corporations – with laws they are prepared to enforce? Or are they paying lip service, with merely a “moral commitment,” as governments so often do in environmental matters?
November 24, 2016
Karetta Crooks Charles, Santiago, Chile
An Impassioned Plea From the Public for Governments to Raise the Bar
“We, the members of the Public want to acknowledge the progress made in the discussion of the regional instrument to this day, however, we are highly concerned about the turn of the negotiations yesterday. The governments present here are not taking up the challenge with the ambition required to respond effectively to the needs of the region that presents many serious situations such as attacks and murders on a daily basis against environmental defenders and indigenous leaders”. These were the opening words of a speech by Mr. Euren Cuevas, the Executive Director of INSAPROMA of the Dominican Republic on November 23rd, the second day of the 5th Negotiating Committee Meeting for a Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters taking place in Santiago, Chile.
His speech came against the backdrop of a general sense amongst the members of the public attending the meeting that some governments were not negotiating in progressive manner and instead of trying to develop minimum standards to improve environmental governance they appeared to be lowering the standards.
Mr. Cuevas went on to state that a moral commitment was made 24 years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at Rio 92 when Principle 10 was approved to guarantee these access rights in environmental matters. “It was made clear at that time that the best way to manage the environment and natural resources is with the participation of all. However, what we observed yesterday was a regression from the process which began 24 years ago. The region, the world that observes us, does not conceive that after 4 or 5 years of discussion of a regional instrument like this, governments are not able to make the leap from moral commitment to legal commitment,” said Mr. Cuevas.
Additionally, Moisés Sánchez, Executive Secretary of Regional Alliance for Free Expression and Information said, “Ambiguous formulas were used in several parts, such as “as far as possible” or similar, which leaves wide spaces of discretion when interpreting the agreement. In addition, it is necessary to reiterate that there must be greater levels of openness and mechanisms of participation by the countries prior to the negotiation rounds, since there have been cases in which information regarding their positions and opinions is not given, which makes it difficult for civil society to participate and have informed debate in these spaces”.
At the end of both speeches a few countries thanked the public for their comments because according to them the public continues to remind them of why they are working. Additionally, they reassured the public that attention was paid to the message and that they were indeed negotiating with the best interest of their States at heart.
Francisca Medina, Journalist (Chile) firstname.lastname@example.org +56-9-9-153-9144
Loreto Salas, Journalist (Chile) email@example.com +56-9-9-699-4104
Paola Valdés, Journalist (Latin America) firstname.lastname@example.org
Karetta Crooks Charles, Alternate Elected Representative of the Public (St. Lucia) and Journalist (The Caribbean) email@example.com
November 24, 2016
Karetta Crooks Charles, Santiago, Chile
Students of the Saint Lucia School of Music Advocate for Principle 10
The Director of Orchestras at the Saint Lucia School of Music and member of the Saint Lucia National Trust, Liz Ehrman has seen the importance of involving her students in advocacy efforts to get St. Lucia and other Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) non-signatory countries to sign on to the LAC Declaration on the application of Principle 10. Principle 10 which has its origin in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development seeks to involve citizens in the decision making processes regarding environmental matters.
Ms. Ehrman and her students have produced two jingles; “2, 4, 6, 8, Principle 10” sung by Khaia Smith with narration by Shan Lucien can be seen on YouTube at: http://tinyurl.com/h9rpzu9 as well as on the Information Board section on www.lacp10.org. Funds will be provided to support the promotion of both jingles, thanks to The Access Initiative (TAI), through a project funded by Open Society Foundations entitled “Improving Environmental Safeguards and Good Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
The second jingle called “Go Ten!” will be publicized in 2017. According to Karetta Crooks Charles, Alternate Elected Representative of the Public (Saint Lucia) and Communications and Advocacy Officer at the Saint Lucia National Trust, “The release is indeed timely as it coincides with the 5th Negotiating Committee Meeting for a Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters, taking place in Chile from November 21 – 25, 2016.” She also welcomed Dominica, the most recent signatory to the Declaration, and hoped that Saint Lucia will sign on before the 6th Negotiations. Mrs. Crooks Charles said, “The negotiations are expected to continue in 2017, allowing more time to negotiate what will hopefully result in a robust agreement that will set minimum standards for access rights in environmental governance in our region.” She also called for the public to follow Ms. Ehrman’s example and come up with creative ways of raising awareness of environmental matters among our citizens especially the children, our future leaders.
Countries willing be a part of this transformative process can simply contact the Technical Secretariat, ECLAC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit www.lacp10.org and follow us on our social media networks:
Facebook: LAC P10 Regional Public Mechanism – ALC P10 Mecanismo Público Regional
For information on civil society’s role in the regional process please contact:
Danielle Andrade Goffe (Jamaica), Main Elected Representative of the Public (LAC P10)
Karetta Crooks Charles (Saint Lucia), Alternate Elected Representative of the Public (LAC P10)