This November 2021, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) released a new publication on the Escazú Accord, produced in collaboration with the University of Rosario (Argentina).
The book is entitled “The Escazú Agreement on Environmental Democracy and its relationship with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and brings together various contributions from renowned specialists from different parts of the Americas: the full text of the book (298 pages) is now available at this official ECLAC link. The preface to this book was written by John H. Knox, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment.
In their presentation, the three editors of this book indicate that: “In order to allow the reader to immerse themselves in the content of this work, it is necessary to emphasise that for ECLAC and the Universidad del Rosario the Escazú Agreement represents a very valuable and unprecedented opportunity for Latin America and the Caribbean not only for the strengthening of democracy, human rights and environmental protection, but also for the fulfilment of the most important global agenda of our time, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (p. xxiv).
Despite its entry into force on 22 April, the Escazú Agreement continues to polarise public opinion in several Latin American and Caribbean states, whose political decision-makers remain hesitant to approve this ground-breaking regional agreement. In large part this is due to a veritable disinformation campaign unleashed by some economic and political sectors opposed to seeing the rights of those who defend the environment consolidated and strengthened. These “arguments” against Escazú are more like myths and legends promoted by some political sectors close to influential business leaders than sensible and reasonable arguments: From the idea that if Chile approves this treaty, a Bolivian lawsuit against it would be imminent, to the supposed loss of Peruvian sovereignty in the Amazon region, to the intention of favouring abortion that the Paraguayan church found in the Escazú Agreement, not to mention the reversal of the burden of proof (which would threaten the presumption of innocence in criminal matters) or the fact that foreign investment would be scared away if the Escazú Agreement were approved. These and many other supposed “arguments” have been solidly refuted in various parts of the world by academics and civil society itself (Note 1).
The intensity of this campaign of disinformation and its relays found in influential media outlets, which attempts to counteract it through valuable communication efforts (Note 2), explain why out of 24 states that have signed the Escazú Agreement, only 12 have ratified it (see official table of signatures and ratifications). From this point of view, this new ECLAC contribution in November 2021 allows for a better understanding of the Escazú Agreement, particularly in view of the challenges facing Latin America in social and environmental matters. It is worth noting that the economies of the states that have already ratified this innovative regional instrument (such as Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama and Uruguay) have not suffered any of the supposed negative effects that, according to these same business chambers, the approval of the Escazú Agreement entails.
During the recent COP-26 held in Glasgow, the Colombian authorities felt obliged to make an official announcement in favour of the Escazú Agreement (see El Tiempo press release), demonstrating their deep unease, given the dramatic situation faced by environmental defenders in Colombia.
Recently in Costa Rica, the Costa Rican Association of International Law (ACODI) published a valuable article that once again refutes the myths created by some Costa Rican business chambers (and their political tokens) against this instrument: see article entitled “The Escazú Agreement without Costa Rica”, which we also recommend reading.
The cases of Costa Rica (which persists in not ratifying this instrument) and Chile (which has not even signed it) are particularly striking (Note 3), as they are the two States that led the negotiations prior to the adoption of the Escazú Agreement (which lasted five years, seven months and seven days): it is probably the first time in the history of public international law that two States that lead the negotiation of an international instrument fail to be part of the first group of States to allow its entry into force, thus demonstrating to the rest of the international community their inconsistency and contributing to undermine the credibility of their authorities in environmental and human rights matters.
Note 1: For example, in Costa Rica, Doblcheck’s team of journalists published in April 2021 this very complete guide entitled “UCCAEP uses false arguments to oppose the Escazú Agreement”, available at this link. In Colombia, the organisation Ambiente y Sociedad published this other contribution entitled “Mitos y verdades del Acuerdo de Escazú” (Myths and truths of the Escazú Agreement), available here. In Peru, the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA) published this article entitled “10 myths and truths about the Escazú Agreement: democracy and environmental defenders”. In Paraguay, the website ElSurti explained in a text entitled “Five points for you to understand how the Escazú Agreement affects you” that abortion is in no way contemplated in the Escazú Agreement, among many other legends that originated in Paraguayan society in relation to the Escazú Agreement.
Note 2: In Colombia, LaPulla’s talented team of communicators produced a high-quality video that seeks to respond to the various political manoeuvres of some Colombian political sectors, entitled “La nueva trampa que nos quieren hacerse los congresistas” (“The new trap that the congressmen want to set for us”) (available here). In Costa Rica, given the lack of political will to approve the Escazú Agreement in Costa Rica, the University of Costa Rica (UCR) recently produced two short videos, which I personally recommend: “The Escazú Agreement and the defenders of the environment”, available on YouTube here, and another video entitled “UCCAEP and the Escazú Agreement”, available here.
Note 3: On the peculiar case of Costa Rica, we refer our esteemed readers to BOEGLIN N.: “Escazú without Costa Rica: The way it sounds, however extreme it may sound”, Voz Experta section, Portal de la Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), 8 May 2021, available here; as well as PEÑA CHACÓN M., “Desmitificando el Acuerdo de Escazú”, Derecho al Dia, edition of 28 November 2020, available here. In the case of Chile, see DURAN V. & NALEGACH C., “¿Porqué Chile debe adherir al Acuerdo de Escazú?” Perspectivas del Centro de Derecho Ambiental, Number 2, November 2020, available here.