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Four Ways to Strengthen Environmental Rights

Cuatro Maneras para Fortalecer los Derechos Ambientales

Latin America and the Caribbean adopted the Escazu Agreement to guarantee the rights of all people to have a healthy environment, to develop sustainably, and to fight against inequality and discrimination.

An open state – which strengthens transparency, collaboration and participation in the three branches of the state – and the Escazu Agreement share the guiding principles of access to public information, citizen participation, and justice in environmental matters. However, there are challenges to successfully implement the environmental treaty that involve the justice sector. This is where the lessons learned from the open government processes carried out by the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in the different countries can help ensure that the Escazu Agreement reaches its goals and does not remain as simply good intentions.

To support these efforts, in 2023 the International Network for Open Justice (RIJA)  launched a new working group: Open Environmental Justice, which aims to synthesize environmental justice and open justice.

Here we share four issues of the Escazu Agreement that can be addressed from a justice perspective.

Access to public information

Public information is a central element to promote the involvement of all people in environmental matters. That’s why information should be delivered through clear and simple procedures that comply with the principles of the right of access to public information. The data should be delivered and published in open formats, have clear language, and be accessible.   

Example: Disseminate and publish the sentences handed down by the justice sector on environmental issues through active transparency so that the existing information is easily available to the defenders of this right.


Training justice practitioners on environmental justice can help successfully implement the Escazu Agreement from an open justice perspective. It is essential that both the justice officials and the holders of the right to a healthy environment know the rules, processes, scope, existing resolutions, and the possibilities of intervention in environmental matters so they can apply and exercise that right.

Example: Incorporate the Escazu Agreement and environmental issues from a human rights perspective in the curricula of the different educational instances and in judicial training. In Argentina, for example, the Michaela Law sets mandatory gender and gender-based violence training for all people who work in public office and the Yolanda Law sets mandatory environmental training for all public servants.

 Citizen participation

Any intervention in the environment must ensure respect, protection, and fulfillment of the rights of all people. That’s why the involvement of citizens in all stages of environmental processes is essential. To guarantee this involvement, participation should begin as early as possible with methodologies designed  to create trust and foster quality discussions.

Example: The judiciary could use citizen participation tools such as Amicus Curiae presentations,where  people without a direct interest in  the cause  provide arguments to the courts that can be used to expand evidence or develop a case, public hearings, and citizen consultations before preparing a sentence on an environmental issue that affects collective rights.

 Strategic Alliances

The care and protection of the environment are a shared responsibility of the three powers of the State, the private sector, and citizens. It is essential to promote and encourage alliances between these sectors throughout the different stages of the Escazu Agreement.

Example: Develop a public scheme of incentives for the involvement of the private sector and respect for the environment. There are compensation programs for greenhouse gas emissions produced by a company by obtaining carbon credits (e.g. Cabify).

These are some of the proposals governmental, civil society and academic organizations that participated in a recent  workshop organized by OGP, ECLAC, and Universidad Hemisferios at the second meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Escazu Agreement (COP2) shared as ways to guarantee safe and equitable conditions for citizens have an effective access to information, public participation, and justice in environmental matters. As the open government community prepares to implement OGP’s 2023-2028 strategy, where justice and environment issues are high priorities, it is more important than ever to ensure that we can align these two agendas and capitalize on the opportunities that are presented to strengthen the environmental rights of all.

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