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The Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (Escazú Agreement) was adopted in Escazú, Costa Rica, on 4 March 2018, and entered into force on 22 April 2021.
The Escazú Agreement has its origins in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 20–22 June 2012. On that occasion, 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 Latin America and the Caribbean, reaffirming 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 technical secretariat.
Between 2012 and 2014, four meetings of 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 were held: 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 in environmental matters in Latin America and the Caribbean. To this end, the countries established a negotiating committee, with significant participation by the public; Presiding Officers were appointed —comprising Chile and Costa Rica as co-chairs and Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago as vice-chairs— and ECLAC was asked to prepare a preliminary document on the regional instrument. The Presiding Officers were asked to lead the process, with the support of ECLAC as technical secretariat.
The negotiating committee met on nine occasions, concluding with the adoption of the text of the Escazú Agreement. The committee held its first meeting at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago from 5 to 7 May 2015; the second meeting was held in Panama City from 27 to 29 October 2015; the third meeting was held in Montevideo from 5 to 8 April 2016; the fourth meeting was held in Santo Domingo from 9 to 12 August 2016; the fifth meeting was held at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, from 21 to 25 November 2016; the sixth meeting was held in Brasilia, from 20 to 24 March 2017; the seventh meeting was held in Buenos Aires, from 31 July to 4 August 2017; the eighth meeting was held at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, from 27 November to 1 December 2017; and the ninth meeting took place in Escazú (Costa Rica), from 28 February to 4 March 2018.
The final act of the ninth meeting of the negotiating committee established that, between adoption and entry into force, the Presiding Officers of the negotiating committee would continue to steer and conduct the necessary work, with signatory countries, significant participation by the public and the support of ECLAC as technical secretariat, and that the modalities for participation of the public in the negotiating committee of the regional agreement on access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters in Latin America and the Caribbean would apply mutatis mutandis until the first Conference of the Parties. All Latin American and Caribbean States were also invited to sign the Agreement, in accordance with article 21 thereof, and to ratify, accept, approve or accede to it, as appropriate, as soon as possible.
To ensure the continuity of work, two meetings of the countries signatory to the Escazú Agreement were held. The first meeting of the countries signatory to the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (Escazú Agreement) took place in San José, on 11 and 12 October 2019. The second meeting took place in a virtual format on 9 and 10 December 2020, under the auspices of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
The Agreement was opened for signature from 27 September 2018 to 26 September 2020 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The 24 countries that signed it may deposit their instruments of ratification at any time. Those countries that have not signed it within the stipulated time frame can become a party through accession (a one-step procedure without the need for a signature). Instruments of accession have the same legal requirements and effects as ratification.
The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean was held from 20 to 22 April 2022 at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago. At the meeting, the State Parties approved a Political Declaration in which they reaffirmed the treaty as a driving force for sustainable development and a fundamental governance tool for the development of better public policies in the region, with a view to ensuring a healthy environment for present and future generations. They also adopted six decisions, including the rules of procedure of the Conference of the Parties, including the modalities for significant participation by the public (article 15.4(a)) and the rules relating to the structure and functions of the Committee to Support Implementation and Compliance (article 18.1).
In addition, the Conference elected the Presiding Officers integrated by Uruguay as Chair, and Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Mexico and Saint Lucia as Vice-Chairs. It also agreed to hold an extraordinary meeting in 2023 in Argentina and an ordinary meeting in 2024.
The objective of the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean ("Escazú Agreement"), an extraordinary meeting, is to elect the first members of the Committee to Support Implementation and Compliance and to consider any other matter that the Parties may decide.
In turn, in order to advance in the discussion of the topics that will be the subject of the extraordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties, a virtual preparatory meeting has been organized on March 6, 2023 (Pre-COP).