Learn more about the Escazú Agreement and its approval in Chile

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Environmental protest. Photo: Pablo Ibáñez.Environmental protest. Photo: Pablo Ibáñez.

 
By Antonia González.
Translated by Dawn Penso
 
At the end of May, Chile's senate approved the Escazú Agreement, in which Chile will unite with the regional pact. The pact aims to guarantee rights for citizen information, participation, and access to environmental justice in Latin America and the Caribbean.
 
The agreement, initiated in 2012 and adopted in Escazú (Costa Rica) on March 4th, 2018, has an objective that present and future generations can live in a healthy environment, free of contamination; in addition to fight against inequality, discrimination, and environmental injustices; and to guarantee fundamental rights for people to defender their surroundings.
 
From the very beginning, Chile joined with other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, promoted and led negotiations of this agreement for more than six years. However, in 2020, Chile President Sebastián Piñera decided not to sign, arguing that the treaty contained “ambiguous obligations that could condition environmental legislations of Chile and create legal uncertainty.”
 
Antonia Berríos, a lawyer with FIMA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental rights, explained to Patagon Journal that the Escazú agreement is completely the contrary, since it “intends, through participation and access to information, to drive a sustainable development that converges with its preoccupations, knowledge, and wishes of the citizen for sustainable development.”
 
So far, 24 countries have signed the treaty, but only 12 have ratified the agreement, they are: Antigua y Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, and Uruguay.
 
"The agreement, like any international treaty, will establish mechanisms for states to review and incorporate the principles and provisions into their internal regulations,” said Berríos.
 
Chile is considered one of 20 countries with the most active socio-environmental conflicts in the world, says Berríos, and thus she says the ratification of this agreement will signify a great example for other countries of the region.
 
“Environmental conflicts, many times, have not had a recognized institutional solution, and this generates a pressure with no exit,” said the lawyer. 
 

“Environmental conflicts, many times, have not had a recognized institutional solution, and this generates a pressure with no exit."

 

Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Chile.Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Chile.

 
Adds Berrios: He added that "a limit to nature has not been incorporated and the signing of this treaty will allow citizen pressure toward sustainable development and an institutional space can be found that will allow a correct solution to their conflicts."
 
The vote in the Chilean senate closed with 31 votes in favor, three against and 11 abstentions, leaving it ready to be signed into law by President Gabriel Boric and then sent to the United Nations (UN). After 90 days from its formalization, Chile will be a party to the treaty, becoming the 25th country to sign it and the 13th to ratify it.
 
From then on, anyone will be able to request public information on projects affecting the environment that could have a negative impact, including those affecting health and environmental matters of public interest. The agreement generally will bring changes with respect to how the processes of citizen participation and information in the environmental evaluations of productive projects are carried out.
 
"Participation in environmental decisions is a right of the people who are affected by that decision. In this sense, the draft of the new constitution includes these concerns and will allow Chile to comply with the Escazú agreement," said Berríos. 
 
 

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