Posts Tagged ‘Escazú Agreement’

Escazu treaty comes into force on 22 April but its success will depend on the commitment of governments and big business

April 20, 2021

The Thomson Reuters Foundation on 19 April 2021 wrote about the treaty aimed at protecting activists in Latin America which could be a life-saving watershed in a region where scores are murdered each year. But the pact’s success will depend on the commitment of governments and big business, rights advocates said.

Nicaraguan activist Lottie Cunningham, who described the Escazu treaty as “extremely important”, has come to expect death threats and online abuse as she fights mining and agriculture projects on indigenous lands in the Central American country. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/87abe411-b3ca-4301-8607-c894d7e4ecce ]

We have suffered intimidation, harassment and death threats defending indigenous rights, and mother earth and its natural resources,” said Cunningham, an indigenous lawyer.

“It’s virtual warfare. ‘War means blood’ was one of the messages I received on Facebook,” said Cunningham, who heads the Centre for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN).

But in the world’s deadliest region for campaigners such as Cunningham, the Escazu agreement is raising hopes among some that they will be better protected, and cause the perpetrators of crimes to be brought to justice.

The accord, which comes into force on April 22, has been signed by 24 of the region’s 33 countries, so far, and formally ratified by 12. Nicaragua is among the dozen nations that have agreed to make it legally binding.

Beyond the treaty’s safeguards for activists, Cunningham said she hopes it will allow “the effective participation” of indigenous people in decisions about permits and concessions to companies such as mining firms and cattle ranchers.

The treaty also obligates countries to ensure activists can access public information on environmental cases and issues.

David R Boyd, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said the “groundbreaking” treaty could be “a life-saving game changer”. “It is the first treaty in the world that includes specific obligations on governments to protect environmental and human rights defenders,” he said.

“Globally some Latin American countries have been hotspots of violence against environmental and human right defenders, and this treaty is directly intended to address that by raising the bar and creating obligations on governments.”

It could push countries to tighten their own laws to ensure crimes against environmentalists, which too often go unpunished, are investigated and perpetrators prosecuted, Boyd added.

The agreement comes into effect while attacks against activists are rising in some Latin American countries. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/11/in-3-months-the-escazu-agreement-should-come-into-force/

In the Americas last year, 284 human rights defenders were killed, accounting for 86% of the global tally, according to data published this month by campaign group Front Line Defenders.

Colombia, which has signed the Escazu treaty, was the deadliest country for land rights activists and environmentalists last year, according to a 2020 report by advocacy group Global Witness. It found 64 land rights activists were killed in Colombia last year — up from 25 in 2018 — the highest level Global Witness has yet recorded in the country.

Honduras, which has not yet signed the Escazu pact, is another hotspot for violence, where in one recent attack in December masked men with guns and machetes gunned down an environmentalist activist in front of his family. Brazil is unlikely to ratify.

The treaty orders countries to set up bodies to monitor, report and ensure new rules are adhered to, and specifies the rights of environmentalists, including their right to freedom of expression, free movement and peaceful assembly.

Boyd said much of the conflict that places environmentalists in danger is driven by disagreements over projects led by extractive industries and failing to consult communities about activities on their lands.

For the treaty to work in practice, governments and companies must recognise the right of indigenous people to decide what happens on their lands and to be property informed and consulted about projects to stem violence, he said.

“That straightforward step would actually prevent a lot of the conflicts that are leading to peoples’ lives being placed in jeopardy,” he said.

Government commitment to ensure adequate resources and changes in corporate values will also be key, said Marina Comandulli, a campaigner at advocacy group Global Witness.

“[It will only work] if it is properly funded, if every country in the region commits to implementing it, and if big companies start putting people and planet first,” she said, adding that attitudes must shift, too.

“Defenders are routinely threatened, criminalised and killed in Latin America and the Caribbean. Often, that violence is linked to corporate activity, and governments have been complicit in perpetrating it,” she said.

“Defenders are central in the fight against the climate crisis … we need a zero-tolerance approach to violence and to threats.”

Thomson Reuters Foundation

https://www.sightmagazine.com.au/news/19847-war-means-blood-can-a-treaty-stop-latin-american-activists-being-killed

In 3 months the Escazú Agreement should come into force

November 11, 2020

On 9 November 2020, a very large group of UN human rights experts welcomed the impending entry into force of the first environmental human rights treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Escazú Agreement, lauding it as a ground-breaking pact to fight pollution and secure a healthy environment. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/23/escazu-agreement-to-protect-environmental-human-rights-in-latin-america-stalling/]

In the face of proliferating environmental conflicts and persistent intimidation, harassment and detention of environmental human rights defenders, the Escazú Agreement offers hope to the countless individuals and communities in the region that suffer from pollution and the negative impacts of extractive industries,’ said the UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Marcos Orellana.

The Escazú Agreement includes strong protections for indigenous peoples and environmental human rights defenders, at a time when they are subject to unprecedented levels of violence.

The experts expressed hope that the treaty could serve as a model for other regions to improve cooperation and mobilise efforts for better governance of natural resources and environmental protection through transparency, accountability and community engagement. By ensuring people’s rights to information, participation, and access to justice, the Agreement affirms a strong rights-based approach to environmental governance.

The experts also voiced concern over disinformation campaigns that have obfuscated public debate in certain countries of the region.

‘We urge those countries who have yet to ratify or adhere, to join regional efforts and demonstrate best practice for a more just and sustainable region,’ the experts said.

The Escazú Agreement will enter into force 90 days following the 11th ratification. The experts commended the 11 countries that ratified the agreement: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts & Nevis, and Uruguay.

‘The remaining nations in the Latin America and Caribbean region should move quickly towards ratifying the Escazú Agreement in order to maximise the treaty’s effectiveness in protecting human rights in the face of today’s interconnected climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises,’ the experts said.

https://www.marketscreener.com/news/latest/UN-Experts-Hail-Landmark-Environmental-Treaty-in-Latin-America-and-the-Caribbean–31739025

Escazú Agreement to protect environmental human rights in Latin America stalling

December 23, 2019
Credit Wikipedia Commons

Despite being signed a year ago, the agreement hasn’t entered into force yet as it requires 11 of Latin America and the Caribbean’s 33 countries to ratify it. Only five have done that so far: Bolivia, Guyana, Saint Kitts, and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Uruguay. A group of 16 countries have signed it but not ratified it: Colombia, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Granada, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic and Saint Lucia. Another group of 10 countries has not signed it: Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, El Salvador, Honduras, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and Chile.

The NGO Global Witness tracks every year the number of people killed because of standing up for their rights and defending the environment. In 2018, the figure reached 164 people, with more than half taking place in Latin America – the most violent region for environmental defenders in the world. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/30/in-2018-three-murders-per-week-among-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]

A recent journalistic project called Land of Resistants, looked at the situation faced by environmental defenders in Latin America. They were subject to 1.356 attacks and incidences of violence between 2009 and 2019, according to the findings. Up to 50% of the attacks were targeted at people from ethnic minorities.

The Escazú Agreement wants to protect environmental human rights in Latin America — but not everyone is on board

Opening statement by UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet focuses very much on climate change

September 11, 2019

The Opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, at the 42nd Session of the UN human Rights Council in Geneva on 9 September 2019 was widely reported in the media as having an exceptionally strong focus on climate change and human rights.

The crucial paragraph on environmental human rights defenders is quoted below:

Read the rest of this entry »

CIVICUSat the 40th Human Rights Council: counter-terrorism, environmental defenders and more

February 28, 2019
During the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the NGO CIVICUS will be presenting research and conducting advocacy activities and is organising a number of side events, issuing advocacy statements and supporting our members engage in official proceedings, where they can inform government and UN officials on the state of civic space conditions in their countries.

Panel discussions CIVICUS will be co-organising:

Friday, 1 March, 13:00-14:00 (Room XXVII) | The Role of Counter-Terrorism Laws in the Closing of Civic Space | Civic Space Initiative (Article 19, CIVICUS, ECNL, ICNL, World Movement for Democracy)

This event will examine the misuse of counter-terrorism laws by States to target government critics and human rights defenders. The panel will look at how states are abusing security legislation to curtail civic freedoms. See full invitation. Speakers include:

Tuesday,  5 March, 13.00-14:00 (Room XXVII) | Escazú and Beyond: Strengthening the Global Normative Framework on Protecting Environmental Defenders | Article 19, Centre for Environmental Rights, CIVICUS, Defend Defenders, Frontline Defenders, Global Witness, Ground Work, Human Rights Watch,  International Land Coalition

This side event will review State obligations for protecting the rights of environmental defenders and how the recently adopted Escazú Agreement can inform the work of the Human Rights Council. The panel will look at how the standards of the regional Escazú Agreement in Latin America and the Caribbean can support global efforts to end the widespread attacks against environmental and land rights activists. See full invitation. Speakers include:

  • Leiria Vay, Comité de Desarrollo Campesino, CODECA Guatemala
  • Matome Kapa, Attorney, Centre for Environmental Rights, South Africa
  • Marcos Orellana, Director Human Rights and Environment Division, HRW
  • David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment
  • Moderator: Natalia Gomez, Advocacy & Network Engagement Officer, CIVICUS

Other events that CIVICUS is co-sponsoring at the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council, include:

  • 5 March (10:00-11:00) | The case for international action on Bahrain | Room XV
  • 6 March (11:00-12:00) | Women Human Rights Defenders: Local Realities & Shared Global Challenges | Room XXI
  • 8 March (12:00-13:00) | East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project – Human Rights in South Sudan | Room XXVII

CIVICUS will be live-streaming events through its Facebook page and posting updates on Twitter.

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/united-nations/geneva/3753-civicus-at-the-40th-human-rights-council