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UN experts urge Latin America and the Caribbean to adopt trend-setting agreement on environmental democracy

GENEVA (22 October 2015) – In an open statement* published today, a group of United Nations human rights experts have expressed their strong support for the efforts by governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to agree on a regional legal instrument on rights of access to information, participation, and justice in environmental matters.

“Sustainable development and human rights are interrelated,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, as 20 country members of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), representing more than 500 million people, prepare for the next round of negotiations from 27-29 October in Panama City.

“Rights of access to information, participation, and justice are at the fulcrum of the relationship,” Mr. Knox said on behalf of the group of UN experts. “When the people most affected by environment and development policies, including indigenous peoples and women, who are often the primary caregivers in the family, can exercise their human rights to information, participation, and remedy, then the policies are most responsive, fair and effective.”

“This negotiation is one of the most important steps ever taken to protect and promote environmental democracy at the international level,” he stressed; “and it will provide a model for other regions and countries.”

In their open statement, the experts noted that a strong regional instrument on access rights will further enhance robust domestic laws implementing multilateral environmental agreements and domestic policies in other areas, including climate change, chemicals and waste management, and biological diversity.

However, they warned that, while most of the countries have expressed their intention to conclude a legally binding instrument, they have not yet adopted a formal decision on the question.

“We urge the negotiators to adopt a treaty or other binding legal instrument as the best way to promote the effective implementation of access rights and sustainable development and to ensure that the instrument strengthens capacities in public institutions and in civil society,” Mr. Knox said.

The 20 countries engaged in the negotiation are Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.

(*) Read the full open statement by the UN experts: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16630&LangID=E

ENDS

The experts:
Mr. John Knox, Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment;
Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes;
Mr. Dainius Pûras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health;
Mr. Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation;
Ms. Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food;
Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
Mr. Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association;
Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders;
Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights;
Ms. Virginia Dandan, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity;
Mr. Alfred de Zayas, Independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order;
Mr. Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons;
Ms. Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living;
Ms. Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people;
Ms. Eleonora Zielinska, current Chair of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.

The UN human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. For more information, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

Lear more about the ECLAC’s initiative on environmental democracy, visit: http://www.cepal.org/en/topics/principle-10

For more information and media requests please contact Ms. Soo-Young Hwang (+41 22 917 9778 / shwang@ohchr.org) or write to srenvironment@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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