Belize Officially Ratifies Escazu Agreement

Belize Officially Ratifies Escazu Agreement

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eamon Courtenay today signed the instrument of ratification for the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (The Escazu Agreement). The senate authorized the ratification of the agreement two weeks ago. The Escazu Agreement is the first legally binding instrument in the world to include provisions on environmental human rights defenders and is also the first environmental agreement adopted in Latin America and the Caribbean. Senator for the NGO, Janelle Chanona told Love News that GOB’s decision to ratify the agreement is welcoming. 

Janelle Chanona, Senator for NGO’s: The conservation community especially those that have been working for many years on creating the structures around ESCAZU we’re very heartened by the announcement by Cabinet to ratify, it went to the Senate it was ratified, so I think we look forward to the government announcing very soon that it will move to implement around ESCAZU certainly because I think for many years and through various mediums we have underscored the principles of ESCAZU. If you do any reading around Costa Rica’s involvement it’s named ESCAZU for a Costa Rican city however from the onset Costa Rica was instrumental in pulling everybody together and getting everybody together but from the outset they hadn’t taken the steps that the others had and I think right now I even saw where some of their politicians were even saying you know we’re open to having the treaty’s named changed and I think that’s also an opportunity for Belize and the others who are pushing ahead on ESCAZU to think about can we look where there is leadership on this and look at renaming it around the same core principles of the agreement because certainly you don’t want that confusion to exist if Costa Rica is having it’s own decision making.”

Reporter: Okay so what sort of opportunities lie for Belize in terms of leading in this thing ?

Janelle Chanona, Senator for NGO’s: “So I think with ESCAZU the principle thing is connecting the environment to human rights. So you have the right to wake up and drink clean water, clean air, have access to a clean environment and I think most fundamentally to have the right to participate in decisions happening about your environment, about your quality of life to go to the courts if you need redress but bottom line to participate and it’s not about owning the decision making process but its definitely participating because I’ve heard some people throwing around “Oh but you have to get elected to govern.” and it’s like well yes but governance is a comprehensive concept and all of us play a role in governance whether you’re making decisions, you’re participating in the decisions or you’re being impacted by the decisions and I think that’s what this agreement really looks at and if you look at the history of it it came out of that kind of thinking from civil society, from government actors and coming together to create the only legally binding agreement out of the conference of parties sustainable development working goal.”

One of its main provisions includes recognising the right of present and future generations to live in a healthy environment. Senator Chanona says that every Belizean should be involved. 

Janelle Chanona, Senator for NGO’s: “We have the Freedom of Information Act request so Belize has different elements that perhaps other countries don’t have. I think what we’re also working towards is true transparency and accountability and this certainly will help us get there. And it’s also about trying to figure out how we get the opinions and the positions as you say to feel like you’re meaningfully consulted. We could get a text message about double up day or planned outages why can’t we get a text message to say “Oh there’s this project being proposed for your neighborhood or there’s a public meeting happening.” So even about how you get access to information, how you participate in what’s happening jus so you know that your voice has been heard, it’s been weighed appropriately and factored into the decision.”

Reporter: Why should I care about the ESCAZU agreement ? 

Janelle Chanona, Senator for NGO’s:  “I think we should all care about it because I think while we have leadership and we have reputation I think Belize really has an opportunity with ESCAZU to show how that actually comes to fruition, to show others this is how it can be done, we’re small enough but we’re strong enough to make sure that you feel like your rights and like I said this connects your human right, your fundamental right not to have to deal with noise pollution, not to have to worry about whether the water in the river is clean, not to worry about the air you breathe and especially if you have young children, you have asthma like these are things which I know you’ve covered as a reporter where people are like you know abandoned yards with abandoned vehicles or there’s you know buses starting up in the middle of the day or pollution like these are things that we feel like we have to live with and tolerate but you have a fundamental right, a human right to make sure that your environment around you is clean and conducive to the quality of life that you deserve.”

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