Quantcast

Historic Latin American Treaty Protects Environmental Activists

Politics
Hondoranian activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in 2016 because of her opposition to a hydroelectric project, is the type of person the new treaty aims to protect.

The people on the front lines of protecting the environment need some protection as well.

According to a Feb. 2 report by Global Witness and The Guardian, 197 activists were killed in 2017 for defending their communities and natural resources against agribusiness, mining companies, infrastructure projects and poachers.


The majority of these killings took place in Latin America, where mining or agricultural interests seek to exploit resources in rural, forested areas where legal enforcements are weak. That is why it's so encouraging that 24 Latin American and Caribbean nations have now signed an environmental rights agreement that includes protections for nature defenders.

The treaty, known as The Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC P10), is the first legally binding agreement focusing on environmental rights in the region.

The more than six-year negotiation process for the LAC P10 resulted in a final document during a conference that took place in Costa Rica from Feb. 28 to March 4.

The language protecting defenders comes from Article 9, which requires signing parties to both protect activists' "right to life, personal integrity, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and free movement," and to "take appropriate, effective and timely measures to prevent, investigate and punish attacks, threats or intimidations that human rights defenders in environmental matters may suffer."

Carole Excell, acting director of environmental democracy practice at the World Resources Institute, praised the agreement. "By adopting LAC P10, governments in the region have agreed to legally binding provisions that will help prevent and punish threats and attacks against environmental defenders," she said in a statement.

In addition to protecting environmental activists, the agreement also enshrines rights to "environmental information" and "participation in environmental decision-making."

Excell stressed the importance of these provisions as well. "I cannot understate how critical it is for communities to have access to environmental information, like data on local water pollution or nearby mining concessions," she said.

LAC P10's strong defense of activists' right to assemble in defense of the environment contrasts with legislative trends in the U.S.

For a Feb. 16 photo essay by Zoë Carpenter and Tracie Williams, focusing on the aftermath of the demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline, The Nation ran the headline, "Since Standing Rock, 56 Bills Have Been Introduced in 30 States to Restrict Protests." These include bills introduced in half-a-dozen states that would protect motorists who hit demonstrators with their vehicles.

As photojournalist Tracie Williams told The Nation, "What happened at Standing Rock is indicative of the U.S. government's historical failures to acknowledge First Nation treaties and the current administration's complete disregard for public health, the environment, indigenous rights, and civil liberties—in favor of the extractive industries."

While the U.S. does not show up on The Guardian's list of dangerous countries for environmental defenders, the current push to criminalize dissent and exonerate those who would attack protesters risks changing that.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sam Cooper

By Sam Cooper

Thomas Edison once said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"

Read More Show Less
A NOAA research vessel at a Taylor Energy production site in the Gulf of Mexico in September 2018. NOAA

The federal government is looking into the details from the longest running oil spill in U.S. history, and it's looking far worse than the oil rig owner let on, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Damage at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from the 2016 occupation. USFWS

By Tara Lohan

When armed militants with a grudge against the federal government seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon back in the winter of 2016, I remember avoiding the news coverage. Part of me wanted to know what was happening, but each report I read — as the occupation stretched from days to weeks and the destruction grew — made me so angry it was hard to keep reading.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Computer model projection of temperature anomalies across Europe on June 27. Temperature scale in °C. Tropicaltidbits.com

A searing heat wave has begun to spread across Europe, with Germany, France and Belgium experiencing extreme temperatures that are set to continue in the coming days.

Read More Show Less
Skull morphology of hybrid "narluga" whale. Nature / Mikkel Høegh Post

In the 1980s, a Greenlandic subsistence hunter shot and killed a whale with bizarre features unlike any he had ever seen before. He knew something was unique about it, so he left its abnormally large skull on top of his toolshed where it rested until a visiting professor happened upon it a few years later.

Read More Show Less
A house under construction with plastic bottles filled with sand to build shelters that better withstand the climate of the country where temperatures reach up to 50° C Awserd in the Saharawi refugee camp Dakhla on Dec. 31, 2018 in Tindouf, Algeria. Stefano Montesi / Corbis / Getty Images

A UN expert painted a bleak picture Tuesday of how the climate crisis could impact global inequality and human rights, leading to a "climate apartheid" in which the rich pay to flee the consequences while the rest are left behind.

Read More Show Less