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The Escazú Agreement: An unprecedented tool to tackle LAC's environmental challenges

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1 September 2020

Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the most megadiverse regions in the world and has a vast natural heritage. The region has 8 of the 17 megadiverse countries on the planet and has 28% of the arable land. In addition, it represents 1/3 of the freshwater reserves and 22% of the forest cover worldwide.

But it faces pressing environmental challenges. To biodiversity loss, one must add desertification, deforestation, ocean acidification and climate change. The region is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, being the second region most exposed to such disasters. Socio-environmental conflicts are rife and it is the most dangerous place in the world to defend the environment, with more than 2/3 of the murders reported worldwide, mostly indigenous peoples. 

The Escazú Agreement is the first regional environmental treaty of Latin America and the Caribbean and offers an unprecedented tool to tackle these challenges. The Escazú Agreement contributes to the right to a healthy environment and to sustainable development of present and future generations, guaranteeing: 1) access to environmental information; 2) public participation in environmental decision-making; and 3) access to justice in environmental matters. It is the first treaty in the world to protect human rights defenders in environmental matters.

The beneficiaries of the Escazú Agreement are States and their societies. To that end it:
- Empowers individuals and communities, ensuring they are informed and heard in the decisions that affect their lives and territories
- Promotes sustainable, inclusive and nature-based solutions
- Particularly supports persons and groups in vulnerable situations
- Creates trust and legitimacy and prevents conflict
- Strengthens capacity-building and regional cooperation

It places equality at the centre of sustainable development, seeking to leave no one behind.