Ratification of the Escazu Agreement for environmental defenders, the bill to prohibit fracking sunk in the Colombian Congress

Published by Brent Patterson on

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RCN Radio: “In Bogotá’s Plaza de Bolívar, environmental activists donned dozens of shoes with red ink, symbolizing the environmental leaders killed in Colombia, as a symbolic act to ask Congress to ratify the Escazú Agreement.”

EFE has reported: “The Colombian Congress postponed on Thursday [June 17] the vote in the first debate on the Escazú Agreement, a necessary procedure for its ratification … [The] Congress has until [Sunday] June 20, when this legislature ends, to call a new vote; if that does not happen the project will be sunk.”

On June 20, Caracol reported: “The initiative, which had a message of urgency, and which was to be voted on this Sunday, June 20, despite the call from different sectors for it to be approved, did not take place any debate in that body.”

EFE adds: “The future of the Escazú Agreement in Colombia has been delayed for months in Congress even though President Iván Duque signed the bill in December 2019.”

Senator Ivan Cepeda says: “This important initiative has sunk or been shelved, and what this simply shows is that there is no will to protect the environment on the part of the president, the government, or his congressional blocs.”

Cepeda adds: “Nor has it included the ratification of the agreement in the special session that will take place in the coming days [Monday June 21 and Tuesday June 22], which is also another demonstration of that lack of will.”

Another Congressman commented: “Today, the [governing party] Democratic Center’s strategy of sinking the Escazú Agreement was evident; an international instrument that they did not like because it protected the environment, the territory and the life and work of environmental defenders.”

This also happened in the context of the legislation that would have prohibited fracking in Colombia was blocked by 15 members of Congress.

Canada and Escazu

Despite Canadian oil and gas investments in Colombia and the implications of those operations (including potentially fracking) on the safety of environmental defenders, Canada did not publicly call on the Colombian government to ratify Escazu.

Global Affairs Canada has suggested that given Canada is not a signatory or party to the agreement, it would not do so.

That said, Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Leslie E. Norton, told the UN Human Rights Council this past March: “Some states have established specific protection mechanisms to prevent risks and attacks against HRDs and to intervene when need be. Canada wants to stress these important milestones such as the Escazu Regional Agreement in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

On June 16, just prior to the expected vote in the Colombian Congress, the German, Swedish and Norwegian ambassadors to Colombia urged the Colombian government to ratify Escazu highlighting it “would send a very important political signal.”

In September 2018, Peace Brigades International endorsed the Escazú Agreement as “a means to guarantee a safe environment in which individuals, groups and organizations that promote and defend human rights related to the environment can act without facing threats, restrictions, attacks or danger.”

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