Tue. Mar 9th, 2021

Bogotá — As the world became fixated on the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the situation for environmental defenders across the globe has only become more precarious. In 2019, 212 environmental activists were murdered worldwide, and the pandemic has only made Indigenous communities more vulnerable and provided a front for governments to pass anti-environment legislation. But an unprecedented and innovative legal mechanism is making its way through Latin America in an effort to protect social leaders in the world’s deadliest region for environmental activists. The Escazú Agreement, approved in March 2018 after a six-year negotiation under the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, guarantees access to environmental information, ensures public participation in the approval process for environmental projects, and requires states to take measures to protect environmental and human rights defenders. Buttress roots provide support for an Amazon rainforest tree in Colombia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler. The treaty, signed by 24 out of 33 countries in the region, needed 11 ratifications to enter into full force. With Mexico’s ratification on Nov. 5, countries can now enter the implementation phase. The agreement is the first of its kind in Latin America, and stands out both for the content of the treaty and the deep involvement of civil society groups through every phase of the process. “It is an unprecedented, innovative agreement at the regional level — a binding agreement which includes these types of issues,” said Graciela Martinez, Amnesty International’s campaigner for human rights defenders in the Americas.…This article was originally published on Mongabay
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