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Speech by Andrea Sanhueza, Elected Representative of the Public (Chile), regarding the regressive development of the 7th Meeting of the Negotiating Committee for a Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Buenos Aires, Argentina,

August 2, 2017

Good afternoon esteemed delegates, and those watching via the live streaming.

The people and organizations of the Public present at this meeting are extremely concerned and frustrated by the progress of the negotiations. The vision that inspired the Rio + 20, P10 Declaration, which was to ensure the effective implementation of access rights in the region, is being lost.

Principio10-Andrea Sanhueza -7ma reunionWe have made a significant effort to accompany States in this process since 2012, hoping to achieve regional standards. Everyday thousands of people suffer pollution, loss of their natural resources, and even life as is the case of many environmental advocates. These people are waiting for an answer.

From the beginning, certain sectors of the public criticized the process because they observed a risk of regression regarding the standards already reached in the region. Today, regression is becoming a reality.

We see regression in the regime of exemptions that has been introduced to the text, which allows states more possibilities to deny information. Likewise, the text does not establish any category of environmental information that should always be disclosed, as is the case of pollutant emissions.

The text about access to environmental information is regressive and, therefore, unacceptable to the public. We feel it necessary to evaluate the degree of regression of the text negotiated so far.

The direction of the negotiation cannot continue in this manner. We want to explicitly state our minimum demands for participation and justice.

In participation, the text should GUARANTEE the right to participate, but we still see countries that propose verbs as to facilitate, promote and encourage. We want to emphasize that we are facing a rights-based approach, and States have an obligation to ensure them.

Participation must be early to effectively influence environmental decision-making processes. We notice that several governments want to dilute the text and do not want to talk about early involvement or advocacy. Late participation, which is a fait accompli, is not participation.

Regarding the right to access to justice, what is fundamental is the extensive active legitimation that allows any person or organization to access justice to protect the environment. In addition, preventive measures are essential to avoid environmental damage.

The text should also include full guarantees for environmental defenders.

We have reached a turning point. To go ahead we demand a negotiation in good faith. Good faith implies the creation of regional standards that improve the current reality. It seems to us that those countries that are not prepared to build robust regional standards will clear the way for countries that do have a real commitment to sustainable development and people.

It is time to define the binding nature of the agreement. The public is unwilling to occupy these chairs by observing how standards are lowered and rights diminished. However, we are willing to continue working with progressive proposals that recover the vision that inspired this initiative.

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