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Rights of Access to Environmental Information, Participation and Justice Are at the Heart of the 2030 Agenda
The rights of access to information, public participation and justice in environmental matters—consecrated in Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development—are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, authorities and experts gathered in Uruguay said today.
The Third Meeting of the Negotiating Committee on the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean began today in Montevideo, organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the government of Uruguay.
At the meeting—which will be held until Friday, April 8—representatives from the countries that signed the declaration on the application of Principle 10 in environmental matters in the region will continue negotiations to forge a regional agreement on these topics, which is expected to be reached by December 2016.
The meeting was inaugurated by Ambassador Martín Vidal, Director-General of Political Affairs at Uruguay’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary; Patricia Madrigal, Costa Rica’s Deputy Environment Minister and co-chair of the Presiding Officers of the negotiating process; Danielle Andrade and Alberto Gómez, representatives of the general public; and Alejandro Nario, National Director of Environment, of Uruguay’s Ministry of Housing, Territorial Planning and Environment.
In his speech, Ambassador Vidal said that since the 2030 Agenda’s approval last September by United Nations member states, it has become clear that in environmental matters it is not possible to make policy without the active participation of civil society at all stages. “The implementation of these policies is only possible if all actors are incorporated. That is why this endeavor that we continue today is so important; it is about an innovative and unprecedented model of negotiation,” he indicated.
Alicia Bárcena emphasized that the development pattern carried out to date is no longer enough and cannot continue, since it is not sustainable. “We must change the development pattern and that is the aim of the 2030 Agenda, which requires great regional cooperation and broad coalitions,” she said. The Executive Secretary added that the issues addressed in Principle 10 are “at the heart” of this proposal and a new social compact within the 2030 Agenda is needed, with a vision towards the future.
“It is essential to guarantee that the population has reliable information and access to justice to move from a culture of privilege to the culture of equality, with active governance of natural resources. We owe it to future generations. Let’s leave as a legacy a new way of negotiating, a new way of seeing the world,” Bárcena said.
In that same sense, Patricia Madrigal said that the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) confirm that the negotiating process that is under way in Uruguay for an agreement on Principle 10 is both correct and visionary. “Rights of access and democracy are necessary for sustainable development,” she said.
Madrigal said that working on these matters prevents socio-environmental conflicts, opens up spaces of participation and averts later disputes. In addition, it enables progress on reducing corruption, which requires transparency and the participation of all social actors.
The representatives of the public, Danielle Andrade and Alberto Gómez, also highlighted the importance of the process since it guides the path for setting standards that mitigate environmental conflicts, promote good governance and thereby further the rights of the region’s citizens. “Without equal rights and justice, how can we expect peace?” Andrade said.
Finally, Alejandro Nario underscored that it is not possible to have development if it is not sustainable, and that cannot be achieved without citizen participation. He added that beyond the differences among countries it is necessary to articulate processes as a region, sharing information, successes and failures. “Civil society, countries and the entire region are demanding progress on this issue. We have to take action,” he stressed.
At the end of the opening session, authorities informed participants that Granada formally adhered to the declaration on the application of Principle 10 in environmental matters in the region and joined the Negotiating Committee of the regional agreement, which means that 21 countries are now participating in this initiative.