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Governments across Latin America and the Caribbean can make history and set new standards for the protection of the environment and human rights by signing the Escazú Agreement during the UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 27, said the Observatory of Human Rights of the University of Los Andes (ODH–ULA) in a joint open letter signed by over a hundred NGOs and delivered to the heads of state of all 33 countries in the region.

The letter is available for download here

Supporting this initiative is very important for the advancement of public policies upon which States can participate in conjunction with their communities to foster countries’ development without having an impact on neither the environment nor the ecological balance. In Venezuela, we have a grave ecological destruction that has not been exposed enough. For instance, the environmental degradation consequence of mining activities within the so-called Arco Minero (Orinoco Mining Arc). As observatory of human rights, we are concerned over the environmental degradation of natural areas owned by Venezuelan universities, which are intended for research, training and extension activities of the universities. Such it is the case of the Judidaba estate and the Caparo forest reserve, both owned by the University of Los Andes (ULA), which are areas of significant ecological value; and although a tribunal has ruled to protect these areas, the State is incapable of executing the court’s order and evicting the invaders” declared Professor Hočevar, coordinator of ODH–ULA.

Image courtesy CIVICUS.

The open letter calls on governments to sign the agreement and then adopt prompt and effective measures to implement them in their respective countries. It was signed by 176 global, regional and national organizations that work across Latin America and the Caribbean in fields such as human rights, the environment, development and democracy, including Association for Progressive Communications, Amnesty International, CIVICUS, CEJIL, Freedom House, Front Line Defenders, Fund for Human Rights, Greenpeace, the World Organization Against Torture, People in Need, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, among others.

Adopted in San José, Costa Rica, by representatives of 24 countries on 4 March, the Escazú Agreement would be the first binding treaty in the region to establish protections for the rights of access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters, as well as enshrining the protection of environmental human rights defenders.

In this regard, Nelsón Rivas, researcher of the ODH–ULA, said that “the UNHCR stated that climate change, as consequence of environmental degradation, will produce more displacement and poverty, which in turn will exacerbate factors leading to conflict, thus making the humanitarian response for such situations more complex. The ODH–ULA welcomes these initiatives, considering they are an opportunity for States to make real commitments for the implementation of the Escazú Agreement to protect the environment.”

All 33 states in Latin America and the Caribbean will have the opportunity to sign the agreement at the UN headquarters in New York from 27 September 2018. At least 11 countries must sign and ratify it by 27 September 2020 for it to come into force.

Americas States Can Make History Signing Regional Agreement on Environmental Matters

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