Colombian President Petro signs Escazú Agreement to protect environmental defenders on eve of COP27 talks

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo (left to right): Minister of the Interior Alfonso Prada, Minister of Mines and Energy Irene Velez, President Gustavo Petro, Minister of Environment Susana Muhamad, Foreign Minister, Álvaro Leyva.

The Spanish news agency EFE reports: “Colombian President Gustavo Petro signed the Escazú Agreement, an international treaty that seeks to protect environmental defenders and guarantee environmental rights, before traveling to Egypt on [November 5] to participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP17.”

Petro says: “[The Escazú agreement] establishes criteria for protecting activists, environmental defenders in Colombia. It empowers citizens regarding nature, the defense of the planet, the defense of life.”

Minister of Environment Susana Muhamad added: “We hope to honor it with an implementation plan so that we can have more decision of citizens in environmental decisions, more participation and defend those who defend the environment.”

The Colombian government has proposed a 5-point action plan that includes a strategy to accompany environmental defenders.

Peace Brigades International endorses Escazú

In September 2018, PBI signed this Open Letter to Leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean that highlights “the Agreement is 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.”

Significantly, the Escazú Agreement is the first legally binding treaty to include specific provisions to protect environmental defenders.

Article 9 includes the obligation for States to: “guarantee a safe and enabling environment for persons, groups and organizations that promote and defend human rights in environmental matters, so that they are able to act free from threat, restriction and insecurity.”

Article 9 also mandates States to: “prevent, investigate and punish attacks, threats or intimidations that human rights defenders in environmental matters may suffer while exercising the rights set out in the present Agreement.”

COP27

Before heading to COP27, Petro commented: “I will be happy if this time the COP functions as a defense mechanism for humanity, for life, and can really counteract the causes that cause the climate crisis, which are nothing more than the intensive use by the world economy of oil, coal and hydrocarbons in general, plus methane gas fundamentally.”

Global Witness has highlighted: “Research has found that a total of 1,733 [land and environmental defenders] have been killed over the past ten years, that’s one person killed every two days.”

They add: “The data found within the report shows that over half of the attacks over the 10-year period have taken place in Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines. From the 2021 data specifically, Mexico was the country with the highest recorded number of killings and over three-quarters of the attacks recorded in 2021 took place in Latin America. The research has also highlighted that Indigenous communities in particular face a disproportionate level of attacks – nearly 40% – even though they make up only 5% of the world’s population.”

PBI webinar, November 15

PBI is organizing a webinar that will amplify the voices of defenders from Colombia and Mexico, as well as Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Kenya.

To register to hear them speak about their expectations for COP27 and what must be done to change the situation for land and environmental defenders, click here.

Colombian environmental defender Yuli Velasquez will be among the speakers on this webinar. She has experienced three armed attacks against her due to her work in defence of the San Silvestre wetlands in Barrancabermeja.

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