November 24, 2016ǀ Karetta Crooks Charles
An Impassioned Plea From the Public for Governments to Raise the Bar
“We, the members of the Public want to acknowledge the progress made in the discussion of the regional instrument to this day, however, we are highly concerned about the turn of the negotiations yesterday. The governments present here are not taking up the challenge with the ambition required to respond effectively to the needs of the region that presents many serious situations such as attacks and murders on a daily basis against environmental defenders and indigenous leaders”. These were the opening words of a speech by Mr. Euren Cuevas, the Executive Director of INSAPROMA of the Dominican Republic on November 23rd, the second day of the 5th Negotiating Committee Meeting for a Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters taking place in Santiago, Chile.
His speech came against the backdrop of a general sense amongst the members of the public attending the meeting that some governments were not negotiating in progressive manner and instead of trying to develop minimum standards to improve environmental governance they appeared to be lowering the standards.
Mr. Cuevas went on to state that a moral commitment was made 24 years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at Rio 92 when Principle 10 was approved to guarantee these access rights in environmental matters. “It was made clear at that time that the best way to manage the environment and natural resources is with the participation of all, however, what we observed yesterday was a regression from the process which began 24 years ago. The region, the world that observes us, does not conceive that after 4 or 5 years of discussion of a regional instrument like this, governments are not able to make the leap from moral commitment to legal commitment,” said Mr. Cuevas.
Additionally, Moisés Sánchez, Executive Secretary of Regional Alliance for Free Expression and Information said, “Ambiguous formulas were used in several parts, such as “as far as possible” or similar, which leaves wide spaces of discretion when interpreting the agreement. In addition, it is necessary to reiterate that there must be greater levels of openness and mechanisms of participation by the countries prior to the negotiation rounds, since there have been cases in which information regarding their positions and opinions is not given, which makes it difficult for civil society to participate and have informed debate in these spaces”.
At the end of both speeches a few countries thanked the public for their comments because according to them the public continues to remind them of why they are working. Additionally, they reassured the public that attention was paid to the message and that they were indeed negotiating with the best interest of their States at heart.
Journalist (Latin America)
Karetta Crooks Charles
Alternate Elected Representative of the Public (St. Lucia) and Journalist (The Caribbean)