This Pact Protects the Lives of Environmental Activists

The pact codifies the rights of environmentalists to “life, personal integrity, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and free movement”.

Apr 25, 2018

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Last month, 24 states in Latin American and the Caribbean signed a legally binding environmental rights pack designed to protect and safeguard environmental activists.

Two years ago, the violent death of Honduran environmental leader Berta Caceres brought attention to the security threat that land activists in the region face. In 2017 alone around 200 environmentalists around the world were killed, with 60 percent of those residing in Latin America.

The treaty mandates member states to provide a safe environment for those who “promote and defend human rights in environmental matters.”

Specifically, it compels governments to protect environmentalists from threats and attack and urges states to investigate and prosecute when such crimes take place. Furthermore, it codifies the rights of environmentalists to “life, personal integrity, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and free movement.”

Costa Rican President, Luis Guillermo Solis, explained that the treaty is a “turning point” and is “crucial for the very survival of our species.”

The agreement formally called the Latin America and Caribbean Countries Declaration on Principle 10 (LAC-P10) emerged from the 2012 UN Conference on sustainable development, RIO+20.  In addition to protecting the basic rights of land activists, the agreement also increases access to environmental information, justice, and public participation in decision making.

When communities have access to environmental data, they can determine how polluted and/or toxic their water supply is, for example, and begin to determine where pollutants are coming from and how to stop them.

Carole Excell, the environmental democracy director of the World Resources Institute, explains “LAC-P10 is designed not only to protect environmental defenders, but also to make it easier for people to get information, participate in decision-making that will affect their lives and hold powerful interests to account.”

Environmental activists defend the basic rights to a healthy and sustainable planet. This treaty is an incredible stride in building a world where anyone can speak up to protect their right to clean land, water, and air.

Latin America continues to make incredible advances in clean energy, conservation, and green cities. We herald these countries for taking the next step, and creating safe conditions for activists to impact and build our green future.

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Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.