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At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 20-22 June 2012, 10 governments from Latin America and the Caribbean endorsed the Declaration on the application of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, in which they reaffirmed their commitment to rights of access to information, participation and justice regarding environmental matters, declared their willingness to work towards a regional instrument promoting the full application of those rights and requested the support of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) as the technical secretariat. Twenty-four countries have signed the Declaration to date and it remains open for signature by all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The signatory countries are as follows: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Plurinational State of Bolivia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay.
Between 2012 and 2014, the focal points appointed by the governments of the signatory countries of the Declaration on the application of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean held four meetings: the first in Santiago on 6 and 7 November 2012; the second in Guadalajara, Mexico, on 16 and 17 April 2013; the third in Lima on 30 and 31 October 2013; and the fourth in Santiago, from 4 to 6 November 2014.
At the fourth meeting of the focal points, the signatory countries adopted the Santiago Decision, in which they agreed to commence negotiations on a regional instrument on access to information, participation and justice regarding environmental matters in Latin America and the Caribbean. To that end, they established a negotiating committee, with significant participation by the public, and appointed Presiding Officers. They requested ECLAC to prepare a preliminary document on the regional instrument. They also requested the Presiding Officers to steer the process, with the support of ECLAC as the technical secretariat, with a view to concluding negotiations on the regional instrument by December 2017.
The first meeting of the negotiating committee was held at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago from 5 to 7 May 2015. At that meeting, ECLAC presented the preliminary document on the regional instrument that the countries had requested it prepare. The negotiating committee adopted its organization and work plan and agreed to hold its second meeting in Panama City, at the invitation of the Government of Panama, on 27-29 October 2015.
The second meeting of the negotiating committee took place in Panama City from 27 to 29 October 2015. At the meeting, substantive aspects of the regional agreement were negotiated. The negotiation focused on the preamble, article 1 and part of article 2 of the text compiled by the Presiding Officers for the second meeting of the negotiating committee incorporating the language proposals made by countries on the preamble and articles 1 to 10 of the preliminary document of the regional agreement. The Co-Chairs’ proposal on the modalities for public participation in the meetings of the negotiating committee of the regional agreement was also considered. At the meeting, the countries agreed to resume negotiations on articles 2 to 10 at the third meeting of the negotiating committee, using the second version of the compiled text, and review outstanding issues from the preamble to article 10; to continue considering the proposed modalities for participation of the public in the negotiating committee of the regional agreement, with a view to their adoption at the third meeting of the negotiating committee.
The third meeting of the negotiating committee was held in Montevideo from 5 to 8 April 2016, where progress was made in the negotiation of articles 2 to 5 and numerals 1 and 2 of article 6. In addition, the modalities for participation of the public in the negotiating committee of the regional agreement were adopted.
The fourth meeting of the negotiating committee was held in Santo Domingo from 9 to12 August 2016. The committee concluded the review of article 6 and part of article 7.
At its fifth meeting, held at ECLAC headquarters from 21 to 25 November 2016, under the auspices of the Government of Chile, the negotiating commitee concluded the review of articles 7 and 8 and began reviewing article 9.
The sixth meeting of the negotiating committee took place in Brasilia from 20 to 24 March 2017, where progress was made in the negotiation of articles 9 to 11, the analysis of articles 12 and 25 and the review of the pending matters in articles 6 to 8. Furthermore, the preliminary report assessing the possible administrative, financial and budgetary implications of the agreement was presented by the secretariat.
The seventh meeting of the negotiating committee was held in Buenos Aires from 31 July to 4 August 2017, articles 6, 7 and 8 were agreed, progress was made in the review of articles 9 bis and 10 and the institutional arrangements of the future agreement were discussed (on the basis of articles 11 to 25 of the compiled text).
At the eighth meeting, held in Santiago from 27 November to 1 December 2017, under the auspices of the Governments of Chile and Costa Rica, Co-Chairs of the negotiating committee, the articles on the objective (article 1), access to justice (current article 8), human rights defenders in environmental matters (current article 9), capacity-building (current article 10), cooperation (current article 11) and the clearing house (current article 12), were agreed, and the articles on principles (article 3) and general [obligations] [provisions] were partially agreed. Furthermore, progress was made in the analysis of article 2 (definitions).
The countries agreed to make every effort to conclude the negotiations at the ninth meeting of the negotiating committee, which will be held in San José under the auspices of the Government of Costa Rica. In light of the above, the objective of the ninth meeting is to resume the negotiations of the regional agreement on the basis of the eighth version of the text compiled by the Presiding Officers and review all the pending matters with the expectation of concluding and adopting the text of the agreement.