Statement by United Nations experts on the ECLAC’s negotiation of a regional instrument on environmental democracy

 

Spanish

22 October 2015

On the eve of a precedent-setting negotiation, we express our strong support for the efforts by governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to agree on a regional instrument on rights of access to information, participation, and justice in environmental matters.

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

Emerging from a proposal at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, the new agreement is being negotiated by 20 member States of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, representing more than 500 million people. The next negotiating session is October 27-29 in Panama Citya1.

The countries are discussing ways to implement Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration, which affirmed that “Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens,” that “each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities” and “the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes,” and that “Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.”

Principle 10 is universally acknowledged, and the obligations on States to provide access to information, participation, and remedy have strong bases in international human rights law as well, as is described in the 2014 mapping report of the then-Independent Expert on human rights and the environment, A/HRC/25/53.

Nevertheless, implementation of Principle 10 at the national and local level is often incomplete or ineffective. A robust, legally binding regional instrument would provide invaluable support for such implementation, including by protecting environmental human rights defenders, including indigenous activists and leaders and women human rights defenders, who are at high risk of harassment and even death in many countries.

Sustainable development and human rights are interrelated. Rights of access to information, participation, and justice are at the fulcrum of the relationship. When the people most affected by environment and development policies—including indigenous peoples, whose livelihoods and cultures often depend on access to their lands and resources, and women, who are often the primary caregivers in the family—can exercise their human rights to information, participation in decision-making, and remedy, then the policies are most responsive, fair and effective.

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.

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 decide 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.

In addition, a legally binding instrument can provide legal tools to secure the effective enjoyment of access rights. An adequate legal framework is indispensable to give effect to access rights, and a treaty enables adoption and enforcement of adequate internal laws.

Moreover, a legally binding instrument can channel development and technical assistance to strengthen institutional capacities, by providing the structural mechanisms for North-South development assistance and South-South regional cooperation, including through a dedicated Secretariat. Such an instrument may also establish a mechanism to oversee compliance with the obligations established in the treaty, and thus to monitor and facilitate its implementation.

We also applaud the transparent negotiating process. Modalities for the participation of the public have included the ability of the public to speak at any moment of the discussions, subject to the Chair’s discretion. This arrangement is an international good practice regarding stakeholder engagement in inter-governmental processes. In addition, the process has contemplated a number of activities for capacity-building, lessons sharing, and education regarding sustainable development and access rights, including workshops jointly organized by governmental agencies and civil society.

This statement has been endorsed by the following UN Special Procedures:

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 Pūras, 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.

– See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16630&LangID=E#sthash.kiVHuWKA.dpuf

Lessons from India to protect cultural heritage

National Consultation Workshop on draft EIA Law, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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The Second National Consultation Workshop on the draft Law on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was opened by H.E Dr. Say Samal, Minister of Environment, on Tuesday 17 March in Phnom Penh.

H.E the Minister said: “The new Environmental Impact Assessment Law marks an important shift to more transparent and accountable environmental management. With the new Law, we will be able to ensure that all future development complies with the government’s nature conservation and environmental protection standards. This Law will be the centrepiece of environmental management for many years to come.”

The new EIA Law will mandate the conduct of a comprehensive and transparent EIA for all types of development projects, including dams, large plantations and urban construction projects. The draft EIA Law provides provisions for access to information and public participation. These will provide “communities and other affected persons unprecedented rights to be informed and participate” in the planning and assessment of development projects.

The draft EIA Law also provides innovative and best practice provisions on climate change, transboundary impacts, and strategic environmental assessment.

Comments and questions are being sought on the draft EIA for consideration and assessment by the EIA Working group with includes the Ministry of Environment, Vishnu Law Group and EIA expert Prof Richard Frankel and Matthew Baird, Environmental Counsel.

The draft EIA Law has been under development since 2011, in a collaborative process between the Ministry of Environment and Vishnu Law Group. To date there have been six consultation workshops throughout Cambodia with hundreds of submissions received over the process.

Ms. Sao Kagna, Manager of Vishnu Law Group, said: “Vishnu has been very pleased to collaborate with the Ministry to create this Law. Stakeholders from all over the country have been very enthusiastic about the very transparent and inclusive way that this Law was created.”

Leaders, royals work to stop illegal wildlife trade threatening elephants, rhinos

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
February 11, 2014 — Updated 1913 GMT (0313 HKT)

London (CNN) — The illegal wildlife trade takes the lives of 100 elephants a day, and rhino poaching increased by 5,000% between 2007 and 2012.

The six remaining subspecies of tiger are endangered, two of them critically. Three other tiger subspecies are already extinct.

Statistics like these are the reason it’s time to treat the effort to stop the illegal wildlife trade “like a battle, because it is precisely that,” says Britain’s Prince Charles.

He and his son, Prince William, are among the high-profile global guests due to take part in the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade on Thursday, hosted by the UK government.

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/11/world/europe/uk-illegal-wildlife-summit/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

 

edition.cnn.com/2014/02/11/world/europe/uk-illegal-wildlife-summit/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Another day, another ecological disaster in China.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/06/world/asia/huge-algae-bloom-afflicts-qingdao-china.html?smid=fb-share

 

BEIJING — In what has become an annual summer scourge, the coastal Chinese city of Qingdao has been hit by a near-record algae bloom that has left its popular beaches fouled with a green, stringy muck.

The State Oceanic Administration said an area larger than Connecticut had been affected by the mat of “sea lettuce,” as it is known in Chinese, which is generally harmless to humans but chokes off marine life and invariably chases away tourists as it begins to rot.

Some beachgoers appeared to be amused by the outbreak, at least according to the Chinese news media, which in recent days have featured images of swimmers lounging on bright green beds of algae, tossing it around with glee or piling it atop of one another as if it were sand.

Local officials, however, are less enthusiastic. Last month, they declared a “large-scale algae disaster,” sending hundreds of boats and bulldozers to clean up the waters off Qingdao, a former German concession in Shandong Province that is famous for its beer and beaches. As of Monday, about 19,800 tons of the algae had been cleared, the Qingdao government said. While valued for its nutrition — or as an ingredient in fertilizers and biomass energy production — algae in large quantities can prove dangerous as it decomposes, producing toxic hydrogen sulfide gas. It also smells like rotten eggs.

The green tide, spread over 7,500 square miles, is thought to be twice the size of an outbreak in 2008 that threatened sailing events during the Beijing Olympics, which took place near Qingdao. Officials deployed boats, helicopters and 10,000 workers to keep the waters clear for the competition.

The cleanup costs were later estimated at more than $30 million. Abalone, clam and sea cucumber farms suffered more than $100 million in damage, according to a 2011 study by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences. A 2009 outbreak was bigger.

NYT

Qingdao’s algae is generally harmless to humans, but not marine life. NYT

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