The Escazu

This landmark treaty aims 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 and access to justice in environmental matters.

The Escazú Agreement was adopted on March 4, 2018 in Escazú, Costa Rica. This treaty strengthens the link between human rights and environmental defense by posing obligations on the States parties, regarding the protection of environmental human rights defenders. Thus, the Escazú Agreement promotes a four-pillar model of environmental democracy.

1. Access to information

Article 5 defines the obligations of States parties for granting access to the public to environmental information. According to it, any citizen has the right to request environmental information without presenting any major justification, and to receive it within the next 30 days.

Article 6 defines the ways in which States parties must produce and disseminate environmental information. The information that must be accessible to the public includes, inter alia, texts of treaties and international agreements, as well as environmental laws; reports on the state of the environment; lists of polluted areas; information on the use and conservation of natural resources and ecosystem services; and information on environmental impact assessment processes and on other environmental management instruments.

What does ‘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’.

2. Access to participation in environmental decision-making

Article 7 sets the State obligations regarding public participation in environmental decision-making processes. These include, inter alia, land-use planning, policies, strategies, plans, programmes, rules and regulations, which have or may have a significant impact on the environment.

According to the Agreement, every actor that could be affected by decisions regarding environmental projects, must be taken into account and summoned for participating so that due consideration can be given to the observations of the public. Accordingly, States parties have the obligation to provide the necessary information about the projects to be discussed to those who participate, in order to grant an informed participation.

3. Access to justice in environmental matters

The Agreement (Article 8) establishes obligations regarding the right to access to administrative or judicial mechanisms in order to appeal and challenge decisions concerning the access to environmental information, or participation in environmental decision-making processes. This is fundamental for the full implementation of the other rights. Also, States must guarantee the existence of competent State entities with access to expertise in environmental matters. These entities must be able to provide precautionary measures to prevent environmental harm as well as providing effective remedies and redress to victims of environmental harm.

4. Protection for environmental defenders

The Agreement (Article 9) also creates a protection regime for environmental human rights defenders. According to it, States parties must develop measures to secure a safe environment for environmental human rights defenders, recognize the rights of environmental defenders to participate in environmental defense activities, and prevent, investigate and punish attacks committed on environmental defenders. This is of special relevance for Latin America and the Caribbean, a region recognized as the most dangerous for environmental defense activities. Obligations to secure a safe environment for defenders should help to prevent new assassinations and threats against them.

The Agreement opened for signature on 27 September 2018, during the United Nations General Assembly in New York. So far, 22 countries have signed it, and 5 more have ratified it.

4 important things you need to know about the agreement


Escazú agreement negotiation

It had the significant participation of the public and the support of the ECLAC, as technical secretariat.


RIO + 20

It is the only treaty that has emerged from Rio + 20 and the first on environmental issues in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Future generations

The treaty recognises right to a healthy environment for present and future generations.


Human Rights and the environment

It is the only binding international instrument with specific provisions for the promotion and protection of human rights in environmental matters.