Campaign for a legally binding Principle 10 Convention for Latin America and the Caribbean
One of the most exciting commitments from the Rio 2010 Conference was the Latin America and the Caribbean Principle 10 Regional Declaration. Ten Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) governments (Costa Rica, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Mexico, and Uruguay) publicly signaled their support for development of an international instrument to strengthen access to information, public participation, and access to justice in sustainable development decision making. The Declaration states:
"…we declare our willingness to launch a process to explore the feasibility of adopting a regional instrument, ranging from guidelines, workshops and best practices, to a regional convention open to all the countries in the region with the meaningful participation of all concerned citizens. Latin America and the Caribbean can and must take a meaningful step forward on this front."
TAI Latin America is advocating for a legally binding regional convention to support the full implementation of access rights in the region. We want to encourage the participation of all countries in the region to join the process of negotiation. We believe the process to obtain the agreement must facilitate the full participation of the public in the negotiation process.
In the LAC region, the last two decades have seen improvements in defining within law, rights related to access to information, public participation, and access to justice . For example, currently access to information is guaranteed under the Constitution in 17 out of 33 LAC countries. 14 countries have specific legislation on access to public information and 8 others are engaged in adopting or creating such legislation (ECLAC). But many challenges still exist in the recognition and implementation of access rights. Progress has in fact been slow in the region to learn from country experiences and innovations. There is a still a need for producing and elaborating environmental information at the national level that is comprehensive, user friendly, timely and accessible. This includes corporate pollution related information of discharges of toxic and highly polluting substances. The proper implementation of procedures for participation continues to be a challenge in policy level decisions related to electricity, mining and land use. Strategic environmental impact assessments are still not the norm or adopted in the region. There is a need to strengthen the capacities of those who are historically underrepresented in participatory processes, including women, indigenous and Afro-descendent populations and communities. While access to justice barriers include limitations on who has the right to initiate legal claims in courts and the prohibitively high costs associated with taking legal action against the State or private industry. Also there is a need for the establishment of alternative mechanisms for environmental conflict resolution.
A further challenge is the growing number of socio-environmental conflicts relating to the management and exploitation of natural resources. The backdrop to these conflicts in the region is the poverty and inequality that persists, especially in rural areas, despite the burgeoning economy and the rapid expansion of extractive activities, including mining, oil and gas exploitation, as well as fisheries, forestry and hydroelectricity. Newspapers across the region regularly document these conflicts. Without the right laws and safeguards in place, development often comes at the expense of the environment and local communities in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially those underrepresented. Many of these conflicts occur because Governments continue to make decisions without considering the impact on local communities—with citizens suffering the social, environmental, or health implications. The resulting impacts and costs often fall disproportionately on affected communities. In this context, rights of access are considered indispensable for good governance of the region’s natural resources and can help to prevent and avoid conflict. We believe a regional agreement will set minimum standards for the region development of laws, build capacity of Government and civil society to implement these rights and facilitate the reduction of conflicts over natural resources.