The Escazú agreement

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By LISZT VIEIRA*

The Escazú Agreement is a regional treaty on access to information, public participation and justice in environmental issues in Latin America and the Caribbean

Few people in Brazil are aware of the importance of the Escazú Agreement for protecting the country's environment. This is one of the signs of the dominant capitalist logic's disregard for sustainable development with environmental preservation, social justice and respect for cultural diversity. The programs of political parties, even those on the left, deal with the environmental issue sideways, without integrating the environment into a broad and integrated vision of sustainable development.

Brazil is the fourth country in the world that kills the most environmentalists, according to an NGO report Global Witness. In the world ranking, Brazil had 20 deaths in 2020, behind only Colombia (65 deaths), Mexico (30) and the Philippines (29). An example to be highlighted was the triple homicide that occurred in the São Félix do Xingu region. The crime occurred on January 9, 2022 and the victims – a family of environmentalists from the region – were developing projects to protect animals such as turtles and tortoises. The victims are a man known as Zé do Lago, his wife Márcia and the couple's daughter, Joene. They had lived in the region for 20 years.

According to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), deaths due to conflict in the countryside increased by 1044% in 2021. Violence in cities has also been increasing in recent times, mainly in favelas and on the outskirts, but not in the capital-labor relationship, as it does not there is news of urban workers murdered due to labor conflicts, as is the case with peasants, indigenous people and environmentalists in the area of ​​expansion of capitalism's agricultural frontier, eager for natural resources.

The Escazú Agreement is a regional treaty on access to information, public participation and justice in environmental issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. Signed in March 2018, in the city of Escazú, Costa Rica, the agreement aims to promote the protection of the environment and human rights, strengthening democracy and transparency in environmental matters.

 In the Brazilian context, the implementation of the Escazú Agreement faces challenges that have not yet been overcome. With rich biodiversity and a vast territorial extension, Brazil plays a crucial role in regional and global environmental protection. However, it also faces serious problems related to environmental degradation, deforestation, socio-environmental conflicts and human rights violations.

One of the main features of the Escazú Agreement is the promotion of public participation in environmental decision-making processes. This includes the right of citizens to access environmental information, participate in public consultations and contribute to the development and implementation of policies and projects that affect the environment. In Brazil, despite advances in environmental legislation and the recognition of human rights, effective public participation in environmental issues is often limited by bureaucratic practices, lack of transparency, pressure from polluting companies and socioeconomic inequalities.

Furthermore, the Escazú Agreement highlights the importance of protecting environmental defenders who often face threats and violence for defending the environment and the rights of communities affected by industrial and agricultural activities. In Brazil, the protection of environmental defenders is an urgent need, especially in areas where illegal deforestation by cattle ranching, agribusiness, mining and other projects negatively impacts local communities and their livelihoods.

Thus, in summary, the Escazú Agreement seeks to promote the rights of access to information, participation and justice in environmental issues and the protection of environmental defenders. This is the first environmental agreement in Latin America and the Caribbean and the first in the world with specific obligations to protect environmental defenders. The agreement is fundamental to ensuring transparent, participatory and inclusive environmental and climate governance that guarantees the rights of environmental defenders in the region.

The Escazú Agreement came into force in April 2021 and has already been ratified by 15 countries, including Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay. Brazil has not yet ratified the Agreement which, ignored by the previous government, was sent by the Federal Government to the National Congress for approval in May 2023.

In March 2023, 145 civil society organizations asked the Brazilian government to promote the approval of the agreement. Two months later, the Lula government sent the treaty to Congress, advancing its ratification process.

However, the Agreement has been stuck in the Foreign Relations and National Defense Committee (CREDN) of the Chamber of Deputies for ten months, awaiting a vote on the rapporteur's favorable opinion to proceed with its processing in Congress.

To press for the ratification of the Escazú Agreement in the National Congress, the Escazú Brasil Movement was formed, made up of civil society organizations, networks, coalitions, social movements and citizens who work to promote the Agreement in Brazil, the qualified participation of society Brazilian civil society at the Conference of the Parties (COPs) and in other activities related to the Agreement.

The Escazú Brasil Movement has three main objectives: (i) sensitize key people and the population in general about the importance of the Escazú Agreement; (ii) pressure the Federal Executive and the National Congress for the ratification and implementation of the Escazú Agreement, (iii) promote the participation of Brazilian civil society in the Conferences of the Parties (COPs), mainly at the next COP 30 in Belém do Pará, in 2025.

The implementation of the Escazú Agreement in Brazil is essential to promote environmental protection, strengthen democracy and guarantee respect for human rights. This requires a firm commitment from the Government, civil society and the private sector to address environmental challenges in a transparent, participatory and inclusive way, aiming for sustainable and equitable development for present and future generations.

In view of the serious environmental crisis that threatens the survival of humanity on the planet, in the face of climate change, destruction of biodiversity and natural resources, as well as soil and ocean pollution, the ratification of the Escazú Agreement should be a priority for the Government before even the COP30 in Belém, next year.

*Liszt Vieira is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond). [https://amzn.to/3sQ7Qn3]


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