Recalling the adoption, at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2012, of the Declaration on the application of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, reaffirming the commitment to the rights of access to information, participation and justice regarding environmental issues, recognizing the need to make commitments to ensure proper fulfilment of those rights and declaring a willingness to launch a process for exploring the feasibility of adopting a regional instrument,
Reaffirming Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which establishes the following: “Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided”,
Reaffirming the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recalling other international human rights instruments that underscore that all States have the responsibility to respect, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind, including those related to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,
Recalling the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, the Declaration of Barbados and the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, the Mauritius Declaration and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development, the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway,
Recalling also that, in the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2012, entitled “The future we want”, among the many provisions referring to Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, the Heads of State and Government and high-level representatives acknowledged that democracy, good governance and the rule of law, at the national and international levels, as well as an enabling environment, were essential for sustainable development, including sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, environmental protection and eradication of poverty and hunger; underscored that broad public participation and access to information and judicial and administrative proceedings were essential to the promotion of sustainable development; and encouraged action at the regional, national, subnational and local levels to promote access to environmental information, public participation in the environmental decision-making process and access to justice in environmental matters, as appropriate,
Considering United Nations General Assembly resolution 70/1 of 25 September 2015, entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, by which it adopted a comprehensive, far-reaching and people-centred set of universal and transformative Sustainable Development Goals and targets, and reaffirmed its commitment to achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions —economic, social and environmental— in a balanced and integrated manner,
Recognizing also the important work of the public and of human rights defenders in environmental matters for strengthening democracy, access rights and sustainable development and their fundamental contributions in this regard,
Aware of the progress made in international and regional agreements, in domestic legislation and practice on rights of access to environmental information, public participation in the environmental decision-making process and access to justice in environmental matters,
Convinced of the need to promote and strengthen dialogue, cooperation, technical assistance, education and awareness-raising as well as capacity-building for the full exercise of access rights at the international, regional, national, subnational and local levels,
The objective of the present Agreement is to guarantee the full and effective implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean of the rights of access to environmental information, public participation in the environmental decision-making process and access to justice in environmental matters, and the creation and strengthening of capacities and cooperation, contributing to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in a healthy environment and to sustainable development.
(a) “Access rights” means the right of access to environmental information, the right of public participation in the environmental decision-making process and the right of access to justice in environmental matters;
(b) “Competent authority” means, for the purposes of articles 5 and 6 of the present Agreement, any public body that exercises the powers, authority and functions for access to information, including independent and autonomous bodies, organizations or entities owned or controlled by the government, whether by virtue of powers granted by the constitution or other laws, and, when appropriate, private organizations that receive public funds or benefits (directly or indirectly) or that perform public functions and services, but only with respect to the public funds or benefits received or to the public functions and services performed;
(c) “Environmental information” means any information that is written, visual, audio, and electronic, or recorded in any other format, regarding the environment and its elements and natural resources, including information related to environmental risks, and any possible adverse impacts affecting or likely to affect the environment and health, as well as to environmental protection and management;
(d) “Public” means one or more natural or legal persons and the associations, organizations or groups established by those persons, that are nationals or that are subject to the national jurisdiction of the State Party;
(e) “Persons or groups in vulnerable situations” means those persons or groups that face particular difficulties in fully exercising the access rights recognized in the present Agreement, because of circumstances or conditions identified within each Party’s national context and in accordance with its international obligations.
3. Each Party shall adopt the necessary measures, of a legislative, regulatory, administrative or any other nature, in the framework of its domestic provisions, to guarantee the implementation of the provisions of the present Agreement.
4. With the aim of contributing to the effective application of the present Agreement, each Party shall provide the public with information to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge on access rights.
5. Each Party shall ensure that guidance and assistance is provided to the public —particularly those persons or groups in vulnerable situations— in order to facilitate the exercise of their access rights.
7. No provision in the present Agreement shall limit or repeal other more favourable rights and guarantees set forth, at present or in the future, in the legislation of a State Party or in any other international agreement to which a State is party, or prevent a State Party from granting broader access to environmental information, public participation in the environmental decisionmaking process and justice in environmental matters.
9. For the implementation of the present Agreement, each Party shall encourage the use of new information and communications technologies, such as open data, in the different languages used in the country, as appropriate. In no circumstances shall the use of electronic media constrain or result in discrimination against the public.
3. Each Party shall facilitate access to environmental information for persons or groups in vulnerable situations, establishing procedures for the provision of assistance, from the formulation of requests through to the delivery of the information, taking into account their conditions and specificities, for the purpose of promoting access and participation under equal conditions
4. Each Party shall guarantee that the above-mentioned persons or groups in vulnerable situations, including indigenous peoples and ethnic groups, receive assistance in preparing their requests and obtain a response.
5. If the requested information or part thereof is not delivered to the applicant because it falls under the domestic legal regime of exceptions, the competent authority shall communicate its refusal in writing, including the legal provisions and the reasons justifying the decision in each case, and inform the applicant of the right to challenge and appeal.
6. Access to information may be refused in accordance with domestic legislation. In cases where a Party does not have a domestic legal regime of exceptions, that Party may apply the following exceptions:
8. The reasons for refusal shall be legally established in advance and be clearly defined and regulated, taking into account the public interest, and shall thus be interpreted restrictively. The burden of proof will lie with the competent authority.
9. When applying the public interest test, the competent authorities shall weigh the interest of withholding the information against the public benefit of disclosing it, based on suitability, need and proportionality.
11. The competent authorities shall guarantee that the environmental information is provided in the format requested by the applicant, if available. If such a format is not available, the environmental information shall be provided in the available format.
12. The competent authorities shall respond to requests for environmental information as quickly as possible and within a period not longer than 30 business days from the date of receipt of the request, or less if so stipulated in domestic legislation.
13. Where, in exceptional circumstances and in accordance with domestic legislation, the competent authority requires more time to respond to the request, it shall notify the applicant in writing of the justification for the extension prior to the expiration of the period established in paragraph 12 of the present article. Such an extension will not exceed 10 business days.
15. When the competent authority receiving the request does not have the requested information, it shall notify the applicant as quickly as possible, indicating, if it can determine it, which authority may be in possession of the information. The request shall be forwarded to the relevant authority, and the applicant so informed.
16. When the requested information does not exist or has not yet been generated, the applicant shall be so informed, with explanation, within the periods established in paragraphs 12 and 13 of the present article.
17. Environmental information shall be disclosed at no cost, insofar as its reproduction or delivery is not required. Reproduction and delivery costs shall be applied in accordance with the procedures established by the competent authority. Such costs shall be reasonable and made known in advance, and payment can be waived in the event that the applicant is deemed to be in a vulnerable situation or to have special circumstances warranting such a waiver.
18. Each Party shall establish or designate one or more impartial entities or institutions with autonomy and independence to promote transparency in access to environmental information, to oversee compliance with rules, and monitor, report on and guarantee the right of access to information. Each Party may consider including or strengthening, as appropriate, sanctioning powers within the scope of the responsibilities of the aforementioned entities or institutions.
1. Each Party shall guarantee, to the extent possible within available resources, that the competent authorities generate, collect, publicize and disseminate environmental information relevant to their functions in a systematic, proactive, timely, regular, accessible and comprehensible manner, and periodically update this information and encourage the disaggregation and decentralization of environmental information at the subnational and local levels. Each Party shall strengthen coordination between the different authorities of the State.
2. The competent authorities shall endeavour to ensure, to the extent possible, that environmental information is reusable, processable and available in formats that are accessible, and that no restrictions are placed on its reproduction or use, in accordance with domestic legislation.
(h) information on environmental impact assessment processes and on other environmental management instruments, where applicable, and environmental licences or permits granted by the public authorities;
Each Party shall guarantee that environmental information systems are duly organized, accessible to all persons and made progressively available through information technology and georeferenced media, where appropriate.
4. Each Party shall take steps to establish a pollutant release and transfer register covering air, water, soil and subsoil pollutants, as well as materials and waste in its jurisdiction. This register will be established progressively and updated periodically.
5. Each Party shall guarantee that in the case of an imminent threat to public health or the environment, the relevant competent authority shall immediately disclose and disseminate through the most effective means all pertinent information in its possession that could help the public take measures to prevent or limit potential damage. Each Party shall develop and implement an early warning system using available mechanisms.
6. In order to facilitate access by persons or groups in vulnerable situations to information that particularly affects them, each Party shall endeavour, where applicable, to ensure that the competent authorities disseminate environmental information in the various languages used in the country, and prepare alternative formats that are comprehensible to those groups, using suitable channels of communication.
Such reports shall be drafted in an easily comprehensible manner and accessible to the public in different formats and disseminated through appropriate means, taking into account cultural realities. Each Party may invite the public to make contributions to these reports.
8. Each Party shall encourage independent environmental performance reviews that take into account nationally or internationally agreed criteria and guides and common indicators, with a view to evaluating the efficacy, effectiveness and progress of its national environmental policies in fulfilment of their national and international commitments. The reviews shall include participation by the various stakeholders.
9. Each Party shall promote access to environmental information contained in concessions, contracts, agreements or authorizations granted, which involve the use of public goods, services or resources, in accordance with domestic legislation.
10. Each Party shall ensure that consumers and users have official, relevant and clear information on the environmental qualities of goods and services and their effects on health, favouring sustainable production and consumption patterns.
11. Each Party shall create and keep regularly updated its archiving and document management systems in environmental matters in accordance with its applicable rules with the aim of facilitating access to information at all times.
12. Each Party shall take the necessary measures, through legal or administrative frameworks, among others, to promote access to environmental information in the possession of private entities, in particular information on their operations and the possible risks and effects on human health and the environment.
1. Each Party shall ensure the public’s right to participation and, for that purpose, commits to implement open and inclusive participation in environmental decision-making processes based on domestic and international normative frameworks.
2. Each Party shall guarantee mechanisms for the participation of the public in decision-making processes, revisions, reexaminations or updates with respect to projects and activities, and in other processes for granting environmental permits that have or may have a significant impact on the environment, including when they may affect health.
3. Each Party shall promote the participation of the public in decision-making processes, revisions, re-examinations or updates other than those referred to in paragraph 2 of the present article with respect to environmental matters of public interest, such as land-use planning, policies, strategies, plans, programmes, rules and regulations, which have or may have a significant impact on the environment.
4. Each Party shall adopt measures to ensure that the public can participate in the decision-making process from the early stages, so that due consideration can be given to the observations of the public, thus contributing to the process. To that effect, each Party shall provide the public with the necessary information in a clear, timely and comprehensive manner, to give effect to its right to participate in the decisionmaking process.
6. The public shall be informed, through appropriate means, such as in writing, electronically, orally and by customary methods, and in an effective, comprehensible and timely manner, as a minimum, of the following:
(c) the procedure foreseen for the participation of the public, including the date on which the procedure will begin and end, mechanisms for participation and, where applicable, the date and place of any public consultation or hearing; and
7. The public’s right to participate in environmental decisionmaking processes shall include the opportunity to present observations through appropriate means available, according to the circumstances of the process. Before adopting the decision, the relevant public authority shall give due consideration to the outcome of the participation process.
8. Each Party shall ensure that, once a decision has been made, the public is informed in a timely manner thereof and of the grounds and reasons underlying the decision, including how the observations of the public have been taken into consideration. The decision and its basis shall be made public and be accessible.
9. The dissemination of the decisions resulting from environmental impact assessments and other environmental decision-making processes in which the public has participated shall be carried out through appropriate means, which may include written, electronic or oral means and customary methods, in an effective and prompt manner. The information disseminated shall include the established procedure to allow the public to take the relevant administrative and judicial actions.
10. Each Party shall establish conditions that are favourable to public participation in environmental decision-making processes and that are adapted to the social, economic, cultural, geographical and gender characteristics of the public.
11. When the primary language of the directly affected public is different to the official languages, the public authority shall ensure that means are provided to facilitate their understanding and participation.
12. Each Party shall promote, where appropriate and in accordance with domestic legislation, public participation in international forums and negotiations on environmental matters or with an environmental impact, in accordance with the procedural rules on participation of each forum. The participation of the public at the national level on matters of international environmental forums shall also be promoted, where appropriate.
13. Each Party shall encourage the establishment of appropriate spaces for consultation on environmental matters or the use of those that are already in existence in which various groups and sectors are able to participate. Each Party shall promote regard for local knowledge, dialogue and interaction of different views and knowledge, where appropriate.
14. The public authorities shall make efforts to identify and support persons or groups in vulnerable situations in order to engage them in an active, timely and effective manner in participation mechanisms. For these purposes, appropriate means and formats will be considered, in order to eliminate barriers to participation.
15. In the implementation of the present Agreement, each Party shall guarantee that its domestic legislation and international obligations in relation to the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities are observed.
16. The public authority shall make efforts to identify the public directly affected by the projects or activities that have or may have a significant impact on the environment and shall promote specific actions to facilitate their participation.
(g) mechanisms for redress, where applicable, such as restitution to the condition prior to the damage, restoration, compensation or payment of a financial penalty, satisfaction, guarantees of non-repetition, assistance for affected persons and financial instruments to support redress.
5. In order to give effect to the right of access to justice, each Party shall meet the needs of persons or groups in vulnerable situations by establishing support mechanisms, including, as appropriate, free technical and legal assistance.
1. Each Party shall 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.
2. Each Party shall take adequate and effective measures to recognize, protect and promote all the rights of human rights defenders in environmental matters, including their right to life, personal integrity, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and free movement, as well as their ability to exercise their access rights, taking into account its international obligations in the field of human rights, its constitutional principles and the basic concepts of its legal system.
(b) develop and strengthen environmental law and access rights awareness-raising and capacity-building programmes for, inter alia, the public, judicial and administrative officials, national human rights institutions and jurists;
4. The Parties shall encourage partnerships with States from other regions, intergovernmental, non-governmental, academic and private organizations, as well as civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders to implement the present Agreement.
The Parties shall have a virtual and universally accessible clearing house on access rights. The clearing house will be operated by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, in its capacity as Secretariat, and may include, inter alia, legislative, administrative and policy measures, codes of conduct and good practices.
2. The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean shall convene the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties no later than one year after the entry into force of the present Agreement. Subsequently, ordinary meetings of the Conference of the Parties shall be held at regular intervals to be decided by the Conference.
(b) to provide assistance to the Parties upon their request for capacity-building, including the sharing of experiences and information and the organization of activities in accordance with articles 10, 11 and 12 of the present Agreement;
1. A Committee to Support Implementation and Compliance is hereby established as a subsidiary body of the Conference of the Parties to promote the implementation of the present Agreement and to support the Parties in that regard. The rules relating to its structure and functions shall be determined by the Conference of the Parties at its first meeting.
2. The Committee shall be of a consultative and transparent nature, non-adversarial, non-judicial and non-punitive and shall review compliance of the provisions of the present Agreement and formulate recommendations, in accordance with the rules of procedure established by the Conference of the Parties, ensuring the significant participation of the public and paying particular attention to the national capacities and circumstances of the Parties.
1. If a dispute arises between two or more Parties about the interpretation or application of the present Agreement, they shall seek a solution by negotiation or by any other means of dispute settlement acceptable to the parties to the dispute.
2. When signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to the present Agreement, or at any time thereafter, a Party may declare in writing to the Depositary that, for a dispute not resolved in accordance with paragraph 1 of the present article, it accepts one or both of the following means of dispute settlement as compulsory in relation to any Party accepting the same obligation:
2. Amendments to the present Agreement shall be adopted at a meeting of the Conference of the Parties. The text of any proposed amendment shall be communicated to the Parties by the Secretariat at least six months before the meeting at which it is proposed for adoption. The Secretariat shall also communicate the proposed amendment to the signatories to the present Agreement and, for information, to the Depositary.
3. The Parties shall make every effort to reach a consensus on any proposed amendment to the present Agreement. In the event that the efforts to reach a consensus fail, as a last resort, the amendment shall be adopted by a three-fourths majority vote of the Parties present and voting at the meeting.
5. Ratification, acceptance or approval of an amendment shall be notified to the Depositary in writing. An amendment adopted in accordance with paragraph 3 of the present article shall enter into force for the Parties having consented to be bound by it on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval by at least half of the number of Parties to the present Agreement at the time the amendment was adopted. Thereafter, the amendment shall enter into force for any other Party that consents to be bound by it on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of its instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval of the amendment.
1. The present Agreement shall be open for signature by any of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean included in annex 1 at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 27 September 2018 to 26 September 2020.
2. The present Agreement shall be subject to the ratification, acceptance or approval of the States that have signed it. It shall be open to accession by any country in Latin America and the Caribbean included in annex 1 that has not signed it from the day after the date on which it is closed for signature. Instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession shall be deposited with the Depositary.
2. For each State that ratifies, accepts or approves the present Agreement or accedes thereto after the deposit of the eleventh instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, the present Agreement shall enter into effect on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit by such State of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.
1. At any time after three years from the date on which the present Agreement has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from the present Agreement by giving written notification to the Depositary.