Pandemic delays ratification of Escazú Agreement protection for human rights defenders
Peace Brigades International has endorsed the Escazú Agreement. PBI-Mexico has also called on the European Union to encourage Mexican authorities to “Take all necessary steps to ratify the Escazú Agreement through the competent national bodies.”
Mongabay has explained, the Escazú Agreement “indicates that adequate and effective measures will be taken to recognize, protect and promote all the rights of human rights defenders in environmental matters. It commits to appropriate, effective and timely measures to prevent, investigate and punish attacks, threats or intimidation.”
Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico have signed the agreement, but not yet ratified it. Honduras has not yet signed the agreement.
On April 8, Dialogo Chino reported on the status of the Escazú Agreement:
“Mexico has yet to send the agreement to the legislative branch for ratification, a process that will be slowed by the recently declared health emergency.”
“Two weeks ago, organisations backing the agreement issued a letter calling for the process to be expedited. However, officials from the finance ministry told them in a meeting, without giving details, that they are still short of an economic impact analysis of the ratification.”
“Colombia was the last country to join Escazú, following persistent calls for dialogue from civil society after massive protests against the Iván Duque government last year.”
“Duque signed it on December 11, reversing his original position that the Escazú agreement offered no new measures and exposed the country to international scrutiny. Both houses in congress must now approve it, before it then faces a constitutional court review.”
“The government was supposedly ready to present it on March 17 at the start of the legislature’s new term, but has been interrupted by the preventive isolation and mandatory quarantine measures…”
“Although the Guatemalan government highlighted the importance of the agreement from the moment it was signed, organising awareness-raising workshops with the environment minister and senior foreign ministry officials since August 2018, it has stalled.”
“A year and a half later, the government has still not taken it to Congress. When Jimmy Morales left the presidency at the end of 2019, the Escazú agreement was still theoretically under consultation.”
“The new President, Alejandro Giammattei, took office in January and has not referred to the issue. ‘There are deep interests in the dispute between the environment, indigenous peoples and the private sector,’ said a human rights worker who asked to remain anonymous.”
PBI field projects accompany at-risk human rights defenders in Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala.
In 2019, 304 human rights defenders were killed including 106 in Colombia, 31 in Honduras, 23 in Mexico and 15 in Guatemala. Overall, 40 per cent of those killed worked on land, Indigenous peoples and environmental rights.
PBI-Canada calls on the Canadian government to use its missions and diplomatic channels to encourage the ratification of the Escazú Agreement.