By Alicia Bárcena and Carlos de Miguel
In addition to the degradation of the environment and ecosystems and the depredation of natural resources, associated with the unsustainable dynamics of production and consumption and urban concentration, are added global challenges such as climate change whose impacts greatly affect our region.
The wide range of challenges facing the region has led us at ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) to stress the importance of building pacts for equality and a sustainable future. We have pointed out that these pacts will not be possible without more participatory and transparent democracies in which citizens are deeply involved in the decisions about the type of society to be built.
The 2030 Agenda with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), approved in September 2015 by the United Nations, is universal and indivisible and expresses the international consensus around a new style of development. The Agenda is a plan of action in favor of people, the planet and prosperity. It is also intended to strengthen universal peace within a broader concept of freedom.
This plan will be implemented by all countries and stakeholders through a cooperation alliance that will bring together governments, the private sector, civil society, the United Nations system and other entities. It will, therefore, require actions and coalitions at the national, regional and global levels.
At the national level, the countries must advance in the establishment of an institutional architecture that allows effectively implementing an integrated approach for the development of our nations. The countries of our region have begun to equip themselves with these architectures.
Examples of this are the recently created National Council for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for the sustainable development of Chile, the high-level inter-institutional Commission for the enlistment and effective implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and its sustainable development objectives of Colombia, and the national coordination system established in Brazil.
The regional architecture for monitoring and reviewing the progress of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean, meanwhile, corresponds to the recently created Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, which will function under the auspices of ECLAC.
The Forum will build bridges between the global and the regional, strengthen coherence and coordination at the regional level, promote collaboration and provide policy guidance, foster national capacity building, host voluntary national reviews, identify gaps, challenges and shared goals at the regional level and promote peer learning, among others.
This regional architecture for monitoring and reviewing the progress of the 2030 Agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean is strengthened with the regional agreement for the full application of Principle 10 that under the leadership of Chile and Costa Rica, 21 countries in our region are currently negotiating and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Both the 2030 Agenda and the regional agreement on Principle 10 have emphasized the virtuous circle between access rights, environmental protection and human rights, emphasizing that informed participation and transparency contribute to improving environmental policies and therefore environmental protection. , which in turn allows compliance with substantive rights such as the right of everyone to a healthy environment, life and health.
The regional agreement aims to establish obligations for the States of Latin America and the Caribbean to improve their laws, policies, institutions and practices to guarantee that the rights of people to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, enshrined in the Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, be respected and fully implemented.
The moment to deepen the full application of Principle 10 could not be more opportune. The access rights enshrined in this principle are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda and permeate and are manifested in all the sustainable development goals.
The SDGs expressly link human well-being with environmental quality and peace.
Five goals address environmental issues (goal 6 on sustainable water management; 12 on sustainable consumption and production patterns; 13 on climate change; 14 on oceans and seas; 15 on sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems) and well-being based on the environment is present in the goals of all other objectives.
Additionally, objective 16, which promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, demands to guarantee equal access to justice, effective, responsible and transparent institutions and the adoption of inclusive, participatory and representative decisions. It also calls for guaranteeing public access to information and promoting non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development.
Thus, it is no coincidence that just as well-being based on the environment is present in all the SDGs, equal rights and opportunities, timely access to information, the promotion of education for sustainable development, full and effective participation, strengthening the participation of directly affected communities, participatory planning and management are highlights of the new agenda throughout its 17 objectives and 169 goals.
In this context, the standards that are adopted in the regional agreement on Principle 10 as well as the mechanisms that are established to ensure their compliance will be central elements of the accountability scheme of the 2030 Agenda and the instances of capacity building and cooperation. South-South will support the participation of all actors in society in the implementation of the established action plan.
The process, which has ECLAC as technical secretariat, is an example of how the countries of our region can, under a focus of consultation, autonomy, progressiveness, cooperation and capacity building, face global challenges and strengthen regional environmental governance, contributing to the social and economic progress as well as environmental sustainability.
Our region is teaching the world a lesson, writing a new chapter on the matter of strengthening environmental democracy.
This article was originally published in ECLAC Notes number 88, of June.
Cover photo: Girls in a rural school in the Amazon of Peru, who, like the rest of the students in Latin America and the Caribbean, need the countries of the region to achieve the goals of the sustainable development goals in order to live in more equal societies and inclusive. Credit: Milagros Salazar / IPS
Reviewed by Estrella Gutiérrez