Opening remarks by Mr. Euren Cuevas Medina Executive Director of INSAPROMA, Dominican Republic in the 4th. Negotiating Committee Meeting of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | August 9, 2016
Good morning Mr. Andrés Navarro, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Bautista Rojas Gomez, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Carlos de Miguel, ECLAC, delegates of different countries, public and the press, are all welcome to our land.
This is a good opportunity to highlight the leading role played by the Dominican Republic in this process, being of the first 10 signatories of this commitment in 2012, occupying the vice presidency of the board and working to add more countries to this party of Latin American and Caribbean democracy, now it has 21 signatory countries. It is also important to note that the Dominican Republic has had a strong and unswerving position and it has expressed since the first negotiating session, that for this effort of four years we have been doing, of to obtain the fruits that the entire region and the world awaits, It must be a binding agreement.
We want to emphasize also that Dominican civil society and government have worked together in the dissemination of this process in the Dominican Republic and is an example of civil society and governments that can work together and get better results.
Unfortunately, it is not enough that we have a binding agreement, but:
- We need a regional agreement that transcends our national legislation and establish regional standards.
- A regional agreement where its content is continually referred to the national legislation does not advance the concept of common regional standards that are the baseline, not the summit of the agreement.
- The goal should not be the lowest common denominator, but aim for the top.
- Our economies are based on our ecosystem; with increasing regional investments, we need strong safeguards to ensure sustainable use of our natural resources and our livelihoods, health and life itself are not adversely affected by poor environmental decisions.
The Dominican Republic, for example, is an island, fragile country, located on an island of 72,000 km2, which it shares with Haiti, with more than 20 million people and our country has given in concessions a large part of the country as objective explore and exploit minerals. These concessions prior exploration and exploitation grants must be submitted to the discussion of the owner of these minerals, which is the Dominican people, so that does not happen what happened with the cement plant and the Los Haitises National Park or what happened to Loma Miranda.
The integration of the public in the use of natural resources decreases conflicts, increases transparency and thus contributes to sustainable development.
Practice in the use of Principle 10 in the Dominican Republic, has been limited, regardless that we occupy position 20 of 70 countries assessed by TAI-IRG in the Index of Environmental Democracy, even if its stipulated in laws, this does not translate and is exercised effectively in the country, and it is not enough that the law guarantees free access to information, public participation and access to environmental justice, if not, it is necessary that the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources designates part of the budget of the ministry to ensure such access rights, empowering people with more education and dissemination through various media so that citizens are aware of their rights and use them for their welfare.
We encourage more governments to commit to achieve a legally binding agreement. This creates certainty in the process and indicates a level of commitment to the process. This will ensure that the governments of all signatory countries commit to working towards effective attainment of the principles enshrined in the agreement to actively raise levels of environmental governance in the region.
Access rights have been recognized in the international and regional community as intrinsic to human rights and sustainable development. These same principles are interwoven with the objectives of sustainable development, which all signatory countries have committed to this process.
Of you, leaders of the most unequal region of the planet, depends a binding agreement to decrease environmental conflicts, that is why I say: this is “Our environment, our region, our decisions, our future.”
Thank you very much