Signing of the Escazú Agreement: a Big Step Forward for Environmental Justice and Transparency


Please note! As noted in my blog post of October 1, Jamaica signed, but did not ratify the Escazú Agreement, due to a “technical error” according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. However, I am keeping this (now edited) blog post up, since there are useful links that you might like to look at and it provides some background information on the work that was done prior to the signature of the Agreement. And this is still good news for Jamaica!

The Jamaican Government has been very busy at the United Nations, and a slew of press releases, videos, and social media posts have attested to this.

Among other things, the Prime Minister announced, to great applause, a plan to plant three million trees over three years. We await the details.

However, one action that took place which has drawn much less attention (and did not apparently warrant an official press release) is the signing of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s a mouthful. Let’s call it the Escazú Agreement, named after the town in Colombia where it was adopted on March 4, 2018.

26_sept_2019_ceremony
Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith (4th left) with other signatories at the UN this week. (Photo: ECLAC)

Jamaica was among several countries that signed the Agreement at the 74th United Nations General Assembly this week – under the auspices of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

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Escazu Agreement logo.

As a member of the Negotiating Committee established in 2014, Jamaica was integrally involved in the work leading up to the signing of this agreement. Jamaica’s Danielle Andrade-Goffe was the diligent Elected People’s Representative at these negotiations. I wrote about some of the preparations (two years of preparatory meetings, public consultations and nine meetings of the Committee) in previous blog posts over the past two or three years. I have also written about the need to defend our defenders of the environment – so many have paid with their lives in the region, especially the indigenous peoples. Please take a look at all these links for some background information.

As I noted at the time, Minister with responsibility for the Environment and Climate Change Daryl Vaz announced that Jamaica intended to sign the agreement in May of this year. Now it has happened. The First Meeting of the signatories to the Agreement will take place in San José, Costa Rica on October 11 – 12 this year.

This is a big step forward for the ordinary Caribbean and Latin American citizen. It will ensure proper access to information. It’s important also for us to understand that this is a step towards a new commitment by the Jamaican Government to transparency and openness in making information available; to ensuring that the public participate fully in the environmental decision-making process; to providing full access to justice for citizens in environmental matters; and to protecting the rights of every person, now and in the future, to live in a healthy environment and to enjoy sustainable development.

So, now let’s plant some trees.

 

 

 


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