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Wednesday 16 October 2019
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Rowley urged to sign on to Escazú Agreement

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley  PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE

SIXTY civil society groups have written to the Prime Minister, urging his government to sign and ratify the Escazú Agreement on good environmental governance.

The Escazú Agreement is a regional agreement on access to information, public participation and justice in environmental matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.

On September 6, the 60 civil society organisations (CSOs) working on environmental management across the country delivered a letter to Dr Keith Rowley asking him to ratify and sign on to this treaty, the first in Latin America and the Caribbean and the first treaty in the world with specific protection mechanisms for environmental defenders.

Adopted on March 4, 2018 in Escazú, Costa Rica, the agreement aims to guarantee the full and effective implementation of rights of access to environmental information, public participation in the environmental decision-making process and access to justice in environmental matters.

This is to be achieved through the creation and strengthening of capacities and co-operation, contributing to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in a healthy environment and to sustainable development, the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) said in a release.

The Escazú Agreement was opened for the signature of the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on September 27, 2018 at the UN headquarters in New York, coinciding with the General Annual Debate of the UN’s General Assembly.

So far, there are 17 signatories and only one country (Guyana) has ratified it. It needs to be ratified by 11 states to enter into force. CANARI’s executive director Nicole Leotaud noted that TT’s Government played a leading role in negotiations on the Escazú Agreement and was widely commended for having strong legal, regulatory and policy mechanisms in place to support implementation of this internationally groundbreaking treaty.

“Unfortunately,” Leotaud said, “our government has not yet signed and ratified this critical agreement, which can help support civil society’s role in environmental management as a fundamental part of sustainable development of the country.”

The agreement would be a key step forward for environmental protection in TT, helping to combat climate change and reduce socio-environmental conflicts, strengthen environmental policies and projects in the country through greater transparency and citizen participation.

“Moreover,” Leotaud added, “civil society must be key allies for environmental protection and climate action. The Escazú Agreement would support and facilitate more constructive and effective contributions of civil society in environmental governance.”

The upcoming 74th United Nations General Assembly will be held in New York from September 17- 30 and Leotaud said this presents a clear opportunity for affirmative action by government to sign the agreement and to submit it to the appropriate national authorities for its immediate ratification.

UN Secretary General António Guterres has highlighted the Escazú Agreement as one of the four environmental treaties to be signed/ratified during this General Assembly.

Several countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region have already signalled their intention to sign/ratify the agreement on September 26.

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