The second Conference of States Parties to the Escazu Agreement, a regional treaty adopted in Costa Rica in 2018, began on 19 April in Buenos Aires (Argentina) (see full text).
This meeting, which ended on 21 April, is also known as the “Conference of Parties” or “COP2”: it is in fact a meeting in which the States Parties to the Escazú Agreement participate, which to date number 15 (see official status of signatures and ratifications).
The inauguration was attended by the Argentinean Head of State (see official note and press release from the Casa Rosada) and all the sessions could be followed live, by accessing the official ECLAC link provided for this purpose (see link).
Invited States Parties and non-Parties and side events
This COP2 was the subject of a previous preparatory meeting, also held in Argentina on 6 March, at which the issues to be discussed were specified (see report): it is indicated (on pages 15 and 16 of the aforementioned report) that representatives of States that have not yet ratified the Escazú Agreement were invited to participate in this preparatory meeting, namely Brazil, Colombia and Peru: Brazil, Colombia and Peru. A gesture of a political nature by the 15 States Parties towards these three States, which were invited to observe various sessions, one of them a long-awaited one on the initiatives of each State Party to implement the Escazú Agreement at the national level.
It should be noted that, in parallel to the meetings of the State representatives during this COP2, a series of very varied events organised by civil society and various international organisations took place (see programme of parallel events).
In this COP2, Chile (one of the two States that led the negotiations for more than five and a half years that culminated in Escazú), participated this time as a State Party: see interview with the Chilean negotiator of the Escazú Agreement, published in País Circular, 18/04/2023. A recent report (see text) on the degree of Chile’s compliance with the standards proposed by the Escazú Agreement analyses the various initiatives taken by Chilean government authorities, which should be replicated in other parts of Latin America. In turn, civil society has presented valuable proposals to the States Parties, such as, among many others, this report by OXFAM (see document).
More generally, this interview with a senior ECLAC official (published in Diálogo Chino, edition of 14/04/2023) also allows us to appreciate the challenges that the construction of a true environmental democracy means for the States of the region, based on the principles enumerated in the Escazú Agreement.
COP1 and COP2 in brief
As will be recalled, the Escazú Agreement was adopted in March 2018 in Costa Rica, and the negotiation process was co-led by Chile and Costa Rica. This regional treaty entered into force in April 2021 upon gathering the necessary ratifications (in total 11, as set out in Article 22 of the treaty itself).
The first COP met one year after, in April 2022, in Santiago, Chile (see programme), with 12 States Parties to the Escazú Agreement at that time, namely: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as well as Uruguay. Since then, the Escazú Agreement has added three new States Parties: Chile (June 2022), as well as the recently registered ratifications of Belize and Grenada (March 2023) that we had the opportunity to comment on, in addition to other notable advances of the Escazú Agreement so far in 2023, as well as Costa Rica’s persistent refusal to approve it (Note 1).
In recent days, Brazilian authorities have indicated their interest in accelerating the ratification process of the Escazú Agreement (see press release of 13/04/2023): it should be noted that the head of Brazil’s environment ministry will be present at the opening ceremony of COP2 (see official note). The sad parenthesis that President Bolsonaro’s administration (2017-2022) meant for human rights and the environment, as well as for Brazil’s indigenous populations, augurs a renewed interest of the Brazilian authorities in joining the Escazú Agreement.
It is also expected that Colombia will soon conclude the ratification process, with the Escazú Agreement having been approved by both chambers of its Legislative Branch in November 2022, an approval that we had the opportunity to analyse (Note 2).
In Latin America, in addition to Colombia, the following states have signed the Escazú Agreement, but have not yet approved it: Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Haiti, Paraguay, Peru and the Dominican Republic. The following states have not even signed it: Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela.
Beyond the obstacles of all kinds that have arisen in some states to block the approval of the Escazú Agreement and the disinterest of others in (at least…) signing this agreement, there are several issues regarding the implementation of the Escazú Agreement that were discussed among the States Parties as of 19 April in Buenos Aires.
In this regard, the scarce coverage in the Costa Rican media on the various initiatives developed from the Escazú Agreement in 2022 is striking, and it is foreseeable that this COP2 in Argentina will suffer the same treatment.
In April 2022, a valuable guide to the implementation of the Escazú Agreement was compiled (see full text) that can already be used to generate or guide public policies in various States, whether they are States Parties or not.
Among the various issues to be discussed in Buenos Aires were the appointment of the members of the Implementation and Compliance Support Committee created by this regional treaty in Article 18, as well as the implementation of the Voluntary Fund for Contributions (Article 14).
In addition, a way was sought to follow up on the various recommendations and conclusions of the first forum on environmental defenders, held in Quito (Ecuador) in November 2022 (see report): a Plan of Action (see document) has been put out for consultation with civil society organisations with a view to obtaining their inputs and proposals. In this regard, a second forum on environmental defenders will take place in Panama during the last week of September 2023.
These and many other initiatives confirm the firm and decisive step that the States Parties and ECLAC are taking with the Escazú Agreement, aware of the importance of steadily moving forward with the implementation of this regional treaty: a modern legal instrument for environmental management and governance, as pointed out in several publications (Note 3).
The next meeting of the States Parties (or “COP”) will be held again in Santiago, Chile, in April 2024 (confirming in passing the Costa Rican authorities’ marked lack of interest in returning to the same capital as for the first meeting of this type).
With regard to Costa Rica, the headlines of this article from DW (Germany) and this one from France24 (France), as well as this cable from the international news agency AFP replicated in a Uruguayan media, allow us to appreciate the profound international confusion caused by its absence among the States Parties to the Escazú Agreement, more than five years after its adoption on Costa Rican soil.
Note 1: See in this regard BOEGLIN N., “El Acuerdo de Escazú: viento en popa”, Portal de la Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), edition of 10/04/2023. Text available here.
Note 2: See in this regard BOEGLIN N., “Colombia a few months away from officially becoming a State Party to the Escazú Agreement”, Portal de la Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), edition of 15/11/2022. Text available here.
Note 3: See for example PEÑA CHACÓN M., “Transparencia y rendición de cuentas en el Estado de Derecho ambiental”, Delfino.cr, 17 April 2021 edition, available here. On the Escazú Agreement, we refer to three valuable (and voluminous) collective publications that detail the scope of its content and its importance for the consolidation of a true environmental democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean: ATILIO FRANZA J. & PRIEUR M. (dir.), Acuerdo de Escazú: enfoque internacional, regional y nacional, Editorial Jusbaires, Buenos Aires, 2022, 670 pp. Work available in full at this link; as well as BARCENA A., MUÑOZ AVILA L., TORRES V. (Editors), El Acuerdo de Escazú sobre democracia ambiental y su relación con la Agenda 2030 para el Desarrollo Sostenible, 2021, CEPAL / Universidad del Rosario (Colombia), 298 p., available at this link; and PRIEUR M., SOZZO G. and NAPOLI A. (Editors), Acuerdo de Escazú: pacto para la eco-nomía y democracia del siglo XXI, 330 p., 2020, Universidad del Litoral (Argentina), available at this link. The fact that this is a cutting-edge instrument can be further confirmed by reviewing the developments to ensure a correct application of Article 7 and Article 9, elaborated by ECLAC itself in the aforementioned implementation guide of the Escazú Agreement, formally presented in April 2022 (available here, particularly on pp.108-126).