Ingrid Parchment | What is Escazú Agreement and why we need it
On International Earth Day, the Escazú Agreement came into force, having been ratified by 12 countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Nicaragua, Panama, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Uruguay, Argentina and Mexico.
The Escazú Agreement is a historic regional agreement on access to information, public participation and justice in environmental matters in Latin America and the Caribbean. The agreement takes its name from Escazú, Costa Rica, where in 2018 after two years of preparation and negotiation among the countries of the region, the agreement was adopted.
WHY WE NEED ESCAZU?
The Escazú Agreement recognises that the right to a healthy environment is a human right. In fact, the right to a healthy environment is in Jamaica’s Constitution – Charter of Rights.
The treaty aims to achieve the effective implementation of the rights to access environmental information, public participation as well as justice regarding environmental matters.
Escazú ensures that citizens can:
• Access information on the state of the environment and the decisions and plans that may affect it.
• Effectively participate in the environmental decision-making process.
• Voice their opinions and take legal action to seek redress to protect the environment.
Although having been integrally involved in the work leading to the adoption of the Escazú Agreement and being among the 24 countries to sign the agreement, when it came into force on April 22, this will not be directly implemented in Jamaica unless Jamaica chooses to become a party.
We do hope that by the end of this year, our government will approve Jamaica’s accession to the Escazú Agreement.
Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), in collaboration with other partners, is engaged in a number of activities to help move our elected representatives towards the decision to approve the Escazú Agreement for Jamaica.
1.Raising public awareness to ensure that citizens understand the agreement and how this empowers them in regard to environmental rights. Information is shared on our social media channels and website.
2. Conducting an assessment of Jamaica’s laws and policies and reforms that would support Jamaica’s implementation of the Escazú Agreement. The outcome of this will be recommendations for the reforms necessary to ensure that Jamaica’s laws and policies are aligned to what is required by the Escazú Agreement.
C-CAM and our partners are actively engaging government to ensure that the barriers to Jamaica acceding to the Escazú Agreement are addressed.
In a recent discussion on CANARI Caribbean’s podcast series ‘Escazú is For You’ Danielle Andrade-Goffe, elected representative of the public on the Escazú Agreement, said “Escazú is a means to empower people. I think what the Escazú Agreement is telling everyone is that not only should you have the power, but you have a right. I think that it will bring about a cultural shift. It will make people bolder and more courageous to stand up for their rights and for the things that affect them.”
When Jamaica accedes to the Escazú Agreement, that will be an important step in ensuring environmental justice for all Jamaicans. By so doing, our Government will make a firm commitment on behalf of the citizens of Jamaica – a commitment to ensure that we can enjoy environmental rights such as access to information on the state of our environment and participation in the plans and decisions taken on our behalf, and also give us access to justice if we feel that our environment has been damaged or we are excluded from the environmental decision-making processes.
In his message for International Earth Day 2020, Daryl Vaz, then minister without portfolio (Land, Environment, Climate Change & Investment) in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, acknowledged Jamaica’s vulnerability to the impact of climate change and the importance of protecting the environment for the benefit of the people of Jamaica.
I appeal to the Jamaican Government to follow through on its commitments to give the Jamaican people environmental justice. Please take that firm step towards guaranteeing our citizens the environmental protections and rights that we deserve.
Ingrid Parchment, is the executive director of C-CAM, an environmental and development organisation working primarily in the Portland Bight Protected Area. For more information on the Escazú Agreement, visit www.ccam.org.jm