Adopted on March 4, 2018 in Costa Rica, and expanding to all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the Regional Agreement for the Access to Information, to Public Participation an Access to Justice on Environmental issues in Latin America and the Caribbean, also known as Escazú Agreement, has as its main objectives the guarantee of the full and effective implementation of the access rights understood as:
Access to information
Access to participation especially
Access to remedy or justice on environmental matters
Grounded in Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration of the Earth Summit of 1992, the Escazú Agreement is the most important progressive initiative on environmental issues and the protection of rights for land defenders in the region. The Escazú Agreement is a legally binding agreement that does not allow reserves by any of its Parties and takes into account vulnerable populations and environmental defenders as a central focus.
Under the support and guidance of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), it took over 3 years and 9 negotiation periods to achieve the Agreement, including a comprehensive Public Mechanism, engaging more than 2,000 individuals and organizations in the civil society consultation process. While the process lacked robust Indigenous representation, strong participation of the public in over 24 countries led to influential proposals from civil society, including the precedent-breaking Article 9: Human rights defenders in environmental matters.
The Escazú Agreement entered into force on April 22, 2021, and 12 countries have ratified the agreement thus far. From April 20-22, 2022, countries held the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to address articles 14, 15 and 18 of the Agreement and other relevant matters.
Since 2018, WECAN has been advocating for the ratification and implementation of the Escazú Agreement. We are organizing and collaborating with women leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to ensure that the solutions, experiences, and leadership of women land defenders are centered in the process of implementation. We are particularly honored to collaborate with Reacción Climatica located in Bolivia. We host educational events and workshops both with communities on the ground and virtually. We also advocate within Escazú Agreement processes and forums for women's leadership and expertise, and in the defense of land defenders.
Central to the goal of the WECAN Women for Escazú Agreement Campaign is ensuring that there are strong and transparent mechanisms for the implementation of the Escazú Agreement, resulting in no more women land defenders having their voices censored or experiencing threats or violence.
Our work is guided by the Escazú Agreement Campaign Steering Committee. Committee members include: Patricia Gualinga, Kichwa leader from Sarayaku, Spokeswoman for Mujeres Amazónicas Defensoras de la Selva (Ecuador); Ruth Spencer, Deputy Chair of the Marine Ecosystems Protected Areas (MEPA) Trust (Antigua and Barbuda); Taily Terena (Terena Nation), Indigenous rights and environmental activist (Brazil); Carmen Capriles, Founder of Reacción Climática, WECAN Coordinator for Latin America (Bolivia); Paloma Costa, youth climate leader (Brazil); and Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN Executive Director (USA).
WECAN's Escazú campaign is housed under our Women for Forests program, to learn more about the campaign please visit our website.
A central aim of the WECAN Women for Escazú Agreement Campaign is to ensure that there is proper implementation of the Escazú Agreement, resulting in no more women land defenders being censored or experiencing threats and acts of violence. The Escazú Agreement is providing countries with the opportunity to guarantee the rights of every women land defender, while protecting local ecosystems and our global climate.
Legal Analysis by Country
In 2021, as part of Women for Escazú Agreement Campaign, WECAN initiated and organized a collaboration with the Vance Center to research and evaluate how the Escazú Agreement can be best implemented in specific countries where Indigenous and local land defenders in the LAC region are most at risk in defense of highly important biodiverse areas and forests in their territories and regions. The Vance Center, with the assistance of partner law firms, researched the domestic legal frameworks in Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru to determine the extent to which existing laws comply with the treaty and are being enforced.
WECAN is making the legal reviews created by the law firms available for the public, to support ongoing advocacy and on-the-ground organizing and projects. Click the buttons below to review the analysis country by country. Spanish versions are available here. A Portuguese version of the Brazil report is available here.
Latin America is one of the deadliest regions for environmental land defenders. In 2020, 227 land and environmental defenders were killed – with over two-thirds of killings taking place in Latin America. Combined with entrenched colonial and patriarchal policies, individuals threatened are oftentimes Indigenous peoples and Women Environmental and Human Rights Defenders (WEHRD) fighting for the protection of their communities and territories. Frontline and Indigenous women are often the backbones of their communities, knowledge keepers of the forest, and lead resistance efforts to defend their lands.
With 80% of the biodiversity left on the planet existing within the territories of Indigenous Peoples, or manage by them, it is imperative to implement policies and frameworks, such as those included in the Escazú Agreement, that ensure human rights and the protection of Environment Defenders, including their access to decision making, public information, and justice mechanisms. Several studies have shown that the most effective way to protect biodiverse regions is to protect the rights and sovereignty of Indigenous peoples. By protecting the rights of Indigenous land defenders, the Escazú Agreement is helping to protect the planet from further climate collapse and ecological degradation. Additionally, we know that when women are at the forefront of decision making - the planet and our communities are prioritized.
The Escazú Agreement carries the dedication and spirit of women’s defense of the land at its core, since its adoption was two years after the murder of Honduran activist and land defender, Berta Cáceres. The Agreement aims to carry on the legacy that Berta Cáceres has left as well as the struggles of thousands of land defenders, especially women across the Latin American region that stand up against extractivism. Unfortunately in a region where femicides, domestic violence and insecurity rises every day, the voices of front line women are not heard loud enough, their lives threatened and criminalized. These women are not only the warriors on the front lines, but also the inspiration for alternatives and solutions for a healthy and just world at this critical time of multiple expanding crises.
Please find below important resources and information to learn more about the implications of the Escazú Agreement, and the ongoing issues that women leaders are facing in the LAC region.
WATCH: “Implementing the Escazú Agreement: Opportunities and
Implications for Women Land Defenders", 2022
WATCH: “Indigenous Women Land Defenders, Protection of Nature & Human Rights, and the Escazú Agreement", 2021
WATCH: “Ratifying the Escazú Agreement: Women for Human Rights & the Defense of Nature”, September 2020