Day one of the Sixth Negotiations for a Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice featured a packed agenda and delivered fruitful results. There were contact group sessions on access to information and participation; an opening session; a panel discussion on rights of access to environmental justice; and the sharing of national actions undertaken by governments and civil society to promote Principle 10 — an important and visionary process that seeks to enhance environmental governance in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region, and uniquely allows civil society to share their expertise with the governments of the 23 signatory countries. Nicaragua is also attending as an observer country.
This round of negotiations in Brasilia, Brazil, is symbolic because it was in Brazil 25 years ago that the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development was produced at the United Nations (UN) Conference on Environment and Development. The Rio Declaration consisted of 27 principles intended to guide countries in future sustainable development. It was again in Brazil, in June 2012 at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), that the Declaration on the Application of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development was signed.
Ms. Joara Marchezini, the Access to Information Officer at Article 19, Brazil, spoke at the opening session as a member of the public: “How can we respond to the challenges of the region if those present today are not affected by them? You have to listen, and you have to be supportive. I am not affected by the Mariana disaster, but I hear those who are and I share their pain, and so I will advocate that access to justice must consider restoration and reparation for damages. I am not indigenous, but I am in solidarity with their suffering and I say ‘I hear them’, and so I will advocate for them to participate [at an early stage] and while all possibilities are still on the table. I am not a traditional environmental advocate, but I hear them, and I will defend their right to assistance, free of any cost, in requesting access to information. Let us all be united and remember that our obligation is to defend the interests of the population of our countries. That has to be the conduct of a representative of a democratic country: to respond to people and not to the system.”
Also speaking at the opening session, Karetta Crooks Charles, Alternate Elected Representative of the Public for this process and Communications and Advocacy Officer at the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) said: “In the absence of these essential [access to information and public participation] pillars of Principle 10, unnecessary conflicts will abound. The SLNT, like many other civil society organisations across the region, serve in an advisory capacity to governments, and this must be seen as an important partnership to advance the conservation of our resources and to ensure the sustainable use of these resources for our enjoyment, benefit, livelihoods and as a catalyst to achieve economic growth.”
Countries willing to be a part of this transformative process may contact the Technical Secretariat, ECLAC. You can also follow the negotiations live on YouTube. Sign up to the Regional Public Mechanism to learn more about the process and receive timely updates about upcoming meetings here.
Elected Representative of the Public (Chile)
Karetta Crooks Charles
Alternate Elected Representative of the Public (Saint Lucia)