For the first time talks to reach a Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) is taking place in the Caribbean. The meeting is being held at Hotel Crowne Plaza in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic from August 9-12, 2016.
The major highlight of the Opening Ceremony was the announcement that St. Kitts and Nevis will sign on to declaration on Principle 10. Eden Alistair Edwards, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources, Environment, Cooperatives and Human Settlement, St. Kitts and Nevis pledged his country’s support to the fundamental tenets of Principle 10 as they are already in congruence with the mandate of the Ministry responsible for the Environment. Mr. Edwards called on other Caribbean governments to join the process.
In her address, Natalia Gómez Peña, Elected Representative of the Public (Colombia), said, “This process shows that LAC need new tools for solving environmental conflicts and that it is possible to dream of a region where the protection of our environment and our resources is not synonymous with threats and death of our environmental advocates. In the 3rd meeting of the negotiating committee in April we stood in silence to honour environmental advocates who died in the region. This process is part of the reforms we need to undertake to address this problem and it can guide countries to address this situation that threatens social peace in the region. It is therefore necessary that the regional instrument on access rights ensure regional standards for the implementation of these rights that go beyond our national legislation; incorporating dynamic mechanisms for capacity building and exchange of experiences; and that really means a renewed commitment to sustainable development in the region”. Meanwhile, Euren Cuevas, a member of the public from INSAPROMA, said setting standards would definitely help to prevent social-environmental conflicts such as the proposed building in 2009 of a cement plant in the Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic.
According to Andrés Navarro, Minister of Foreign Affairs – Dominican Republic, climate change is no longer a problem that will affect us in the future, the impacts are already affecting us negatively in the LAC region, especially those who are marginalized. He said we need to approach this problem on a regional instead of a unilateral level. Mr. Navarro noted that these and other environmental issues should involve the government and citizens and therefore must be participatory and inclusive. The Minister said it is not enough to have public policies based on legality. He said to be effective, they must also be supported by legitimacy and to be legitimate they must be supported by the public. Additionally, he also emphasized that this is the reason he supports the involvement of the public in this negotiation process.
What is the Declaration of Latin America and the Caribbean on Principle 10?
It is a political commitment made by several governments of the region to promote a change in the way decisions are made and to begin negotiating a Regional Agreement that will bring standards in access to information, participation and justice in their countries. This commitment seeks to ensure that all people in Latin America and the Caribbean participate in environmental decisions that affect them directly. This Regional Agreement will help citizens to obtain information, participate in decision-making, prevent the development of projects that could damage their lives and livelihoods, and prevent the proliferation of social and environmental conflicts. Any country in Latin America and the Caribbean can join the negotiation process for the Regional Agreement by signing the Declaration, simply contact the Technical Secretariat for this process, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean at firstname.lastname@example.org.