This month we feature National Legal and Policy Assessment to Support the Ratification and Implementation of the Escazú Agreement, by The Access Initiative and the World Resources Institute, and prepared by Network members Carole Excell (@caroleexcell) and Danielle Andrade-Goffe.
The objective of the “Escazú Agreement legal and policy assessment” is to assess gaps in national legislation and policy for countries in order to support ratification and implementation of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation, and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (hereafter the Escazú Agreement). The Escazú Agreement has been recognized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the secretariat for the agreement, as a ground-breaking legal instrument for environmental protection and a human rights treaty the main beneficiaries of which are the people of our region, particularly the most vulnerable groups and communities. The assessment tool has been created by The Access Initiative Network and the World Resources Institute in collaboration with regional experts from civil society and governments. The assessment tool is intended to be useful to governments and civil society in the process of assessing readiness for ratification and implementation of the agreement. The assessment can be carried out repeatedly, tracking changes over time as it creates a standardized and replicable approach to assessing a government’s ability to implement the agreement through law and policy.
The assessment covers a set of 67 legal and policy indicators responding to articles of the Escazú Agreement relating to the Access to Information Pillar, Public Participation Pillar, and Access to Justice Pillar and Capacity Building Pillar of the agreement, as well as provisions on environmental human rights defenders. The assessment does not evaluate practice. The indicators in the assessment will enable researchers to identify gaps in the quality of a country’s laws and policies when compared with the standards set out in the Escazú Agreement provisions.
This methodology seeks to support ratification of the Escazú Agreement by assessing articles of the agreement that can be interpreted as minimum mandatory requirements for countries seeking to become parties and which would require implementation in law or policy. The methodology also assesses other articles which may not mandate specific legal or policy measures to be taken by parties to the Escazú Agreement but which nonetheless support a party’s overall implementation of the agreement.
For the purposes of assessing the minimum requirements for ratification, there may be provisions in national law or policy that are in direct contradiction to the provisions of the agreement. This methodology can be used to identify such contradictory provisions. The Escazú Agreement sets a floor, not a ceiling for the types of provisions that should be adopted in national legislation, so it is possible that a country may have already introduced a law that already has broader access to information, more extensive public participation, and/or wider access to justice rights than the agreement requires. This should be considered by the legal or policy researcher. Where a country has no legal or policy provisions it is still important to indicate any relevant guidance (voluntary or otherwise) which addresses the indicator.
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