The Minister of Environment & Cooperatives, Hon. Eric Evelyn delivered remarks on behalf of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis as part of the celebrations to welcome the regional instrument into force on Thursday, April 22, 2021.
The process towards the adoption of the regional agreement began in 2012 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this Declaration, signatory countries committed, with the support of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) as the technical secretariat, to advance the development of a regional agreement for the full implementation of the rights of access to information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental matters.
Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 1992 states that: “Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens at the relevant level. At the national level, everyone 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.”
Principle 10 sets out three fundamental rights as the key pillars of sound environmental governance, namely:
- It seeks to ensure that every person especially those in vulnerable situations, have access to timely and reliable information,
- All persons can participate significantly in the decisions that affects their lives and;
- There is access to justice in environmental matters with the aim of safeguarding the right to a healthy and sustainable environment for present and future generations.
The access rights have emerged to be very important in promoting transparent, inclusive and accountable environmental governance.
The Ministry of Environment is currently hosting consultations to impose a ban on single-use plastic as the ministry understands the critical role the public plays in the decision-making process.
The regional instrument, now known as the Escazu Agreement, was adopted in Escazu, Costa Rica on 4th March 2018 by 24 countries, St. Kitts and Nevis included. The Escazu Agreement entered into force on 22nd April 2021.