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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 opened for the signature of the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 27 September 2018.
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. 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.
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 ninth meeting took place in San José, from 28 February to 4 March 2018.
The final act of the ninth meeting requested the Presiding Officers of the negotiating committee to continue to steer and conduct the necessary work in the period between the date on which the Agreement would be opened for signature and the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties, with signatory countries, significant participation by the public and the support of ECLAC as technical secretariat, applying mutatis mutandis 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 until the first Conference of the Parties. It also invited all Latin American and Caribbean States 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 continue the discussions, the first meeting of the countries signatory to the Escazú Agreement was held on 11 and 12 October 2019 in San José, where progress was made on the matters to dealt with at the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties.
The second meeting of the signatories to the Escazú Agreement will take place on 9 and 10 December 2020, under the auspices of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. Discussions on the items that should be dealt with at the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties will be resumed, namely: (i) the rules of procedure of the Conference of the Parties, including the modalities for significant participation by the public (article 15.4a); (ii) the financial provisions that are necessary for the functioning and implementation of the Agreement (article 15.4b); and (iii) rules relating to the structure and functions of the Committee to Support Implementation and Compliance (article 18.1). Moreover, delegates will discuss strategies and alternatives to achieve early entry into force and implementation of the Escazú Agreement, as well as the necessary partnerships and synergies.