Synergies Between the Escazú Agreement and Open Government to Strengthen Environmental Democracy in the Americas

NewsSynergies Between the Escazú Agreement and Open Government to Strengthen Environmental Democracy in the Americas
Alicia Barcena |

Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are committed to the implementation of open government policies to strengthen transparency in public administration, access to information, accountability, participation, and collaboration among governments, civil society and the private sector.

The UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Carribean (ECLAC) has supported and encouraged a paradigm shift in the public administration toward open States. Through its Institute for Economic and Social Planning (ILPES) and the Division for Sustainable Development and Human Settlements, ECLAC has actively facilitated open and collaborative instances and supported institutional capacity building to open up and increase the transparency of public institutions.

Strengthening institutions is key to improving governance in public affairs, which in turn is crucial to enhance justice, equality and sustainability in the three dimensions of development: social, economic and environmental.

On March 4, 2018, the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (Escazú Agreement) was endorsed in Escazú, Costa Rica. The agreement is to be signed and ratified by the 33 countries in the region. The Agreement requires at least 11 ratifications to come into effect.

The Escazú Agreement represents an opportunity to guarantee the application of open government principles – transparency, participation, and collaboration – in the design, monitoring, and evaluation of policies, programs, and projects that have environmental impact. The aim is to guarantee safe and equitable conditions to exercise the rights of access to information, participation, and justice in environmental matters.

It also focuses on ensuring equality and non-discrimination in the exercise of rights, with emphasis on vulnerable groups, leaving no one behind. OGP’s gender and inclusion campaign Break the Roles evokes this same notion and calls for the inclusion of all citizens and to guarantee equal conditions in open government processes so that reforms and agreements such as Escazú reflect their interests and needs.

The countries that endorse the Escazú Agreement will define mechanisms, policies, and strategies to guarantee the application of its provisions. Synergies will be created between decisions made with significant public participation at the first Conference of the Parties – the main implementation mechanism of the Agreement – and the open government action plan co-creation process of the Open Government Partnership.

Commitments under OGP and the Escazú Agreement complement and reinforce each other. The transparency, participation, and collaboration tools, mechanisms, instruments, and platforms related to the open government action plan co-creation process contribute to the implementation of the Escazú Agreement. In turn, the Escazú agreement provides regional standards on information, participation and justice in environmental matters that can greatly benefit OGP.

The Escazú Agreement contributes to transparent, participative and just environmental administration, fostering good governance and sustainable development, and advancing the implementation of the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. Like the open government action plans, the Agreement contributes to deeper democracies and social cohesion in the region, building trust in public decision-making, and eliminating inequalities.