As the world marked Earth Day, the first-ever treaty to protect the rights of environmental defenders was ratified by Latin American.
With the final 12 ratifications required, the Escazú Agreement adopted by countries from Latin America and the Caribbean in Costa Rica in 2018, entered into force.
This is the first agreement to introduce specific provisions to protect the human rights of environmentalists in Latin America. The region has a poor track record in this area, accounting for around 60 percent of the world's murdered environmentalist campaigners.
"In 2019, 201 environmental defenders were killed worldwide, two thirds of them in our region, and in 2020 it was worse," said Alicia Bárcena, secretary general of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, CEPAL in Spanish).
According to the commission, the agreement is the "the first environmental treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the only one of its kind worldwide that enshrines the protection of human rights defenders in environmental matters."
"In the face of environmental damage and injustice, legal instruments such as the Escazú Agreement are fundamental in order to hold States accountable, defend the rights and health of people and the planet," said Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The 2018 agreement was initially adopted by 21 countries. Then three more countries later joined and 12 of them ratified it, allowing it to be put into effect.
The following nations have ratified the deal: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and Uruguay.
Chile, along with Costa Rica, initially promoted the deal, but President Sebastián Piñera said last September he would not sign the pact, considering it "ambiguous" and "imprecise" in the obligations.
Other nations including Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bahamas and Suriname, have not signed up either.
According to ECLAC, the agreement aims “to guarantee the full and effective implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean of the rights of access to environmental information, public participation in the environmental decision-making process and access to justice in environmental matters, and the creation and strengthening of capacities and cooperation, contributing to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in a healthy environment and to sustainable development.”