BOGOTÁ (HPD) — The Colombian Congress approved in the last debate the Escazú regional agreement, a pioneer in terms of environmental protection, after almost three years in the Legislature and with the renewed impetus given by the government majorities of President Gustavo Petro.
The agreement was adopted in March 2018 in Escazú, Costa Rica, and promotes the protection of environmental defenders, access to information, and citizen participation in environmental decision-making. If ratified, Colombia would join other countries such as Bolivia, Uruguay and Mexico that have already approved it.
Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries for environmental defenders, according to the most recent report by the international organization Global Witness. In 2021, at least 33 land and environmental defenders were murdered in Colombia, a figure surpassed by Mexico, which accumulated 54 homicides.
The project was approved in the House of Representatives with 119 votes in favor and one against on Monday night. To be ratified, it remains for the Senate and the Chamber to reconcile the two texts that were approved in independent discussions, then President Petro can sign it to make it law and the Constitutional Court will review it as a last resort.
“What the Congress of the Republic has just done is to ratify the will of youth and environmental defenders in the most remote territories of Colombia,” Environment Minister Susana Muhamad celebrated before Congress.
The approval in Colombia of the agreement, which originated in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), also received the approval of Juliette de Rivero, the representative in Colombia of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who On Twitter, he recalled that his approval was one of the recent recommendations given to Colombia for the protection of environmental defenders and environmental institutions.
The agreement has also had strong critics, especially from the Democratic Center, which until a few months ago was the governing party of then President Iván Duque (2018-2022). During the vote in the last debate, the opposition withdrew in an act of protest.
Christian Garcés, a congressman from the opposition Democratic Center, warned before leaving that approving the treaty is “naive” and a “danger to the country’s sovereignty.” In his opinion, the agreement opens the possibility that any person, non-governmental organization or country can “demand public and private investment projects at the international level” in Colombia.
The Petro government, the first from the left in the country, has short-term goals to start implementing the Escazú agreement, such as launching a strategy to support environmental defenders and strengthening citizen oversight.