The president announced his plan to sign the Escazú Agreement before the COP27 summit in November. He indicated that he thought it might help reinforce Latin American integration and cooperation beyond just environmental matters. However, he also recognized that certain current diplomatic issues, such as those between Chile and Bolivia, need to be resolved first.
During a press conference on Monday, Mar. 14, President Gabriel Boric announced his plan to sign the Escazú Agreement before the COP27 summit in November. He said he wanted to take the necessary steps to ensure that Latin America will “have a voice in the world again.” He lamented the fact that most of the current regional forums in place such as the Forum for the Progress and Development of South America, The Union of South American Nations, and the Lima Group are exclusively made up of member states whose political stances are more or less homogenous.
A brief summary of the Escazú Agreement
The Escazú Agreement, or Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean as it is also known, is seen by many as the cornerstone of environmental progress in Latin America. It took effect on Apr. 22, 2021 and enshrines “the right of every person of present and future generations to live in a healthy environment and to sustainable development.”
Furthermore, the agreement is the first in the world to contain specific provisions on the protection of environmental defenders. In a region where environmental activists are particularly at risk, the agreement holds member states accountable for the protection of the natural environment and those who advocate for it. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres declared during the inauguration event that it would also enable Latin American and Caribbean countries to address the “triple crisis” of climate change, biodiversity collapse, and pollution of the natural environment.
So far, the agreement has been signed by 24 countries and ratified by 12. Chile served as a negotiation co-chair during the initial conference in Escazú, Costa Rica, but has yet to sign the agreement as the Piñera government refused to do so at the end of negotiations, citing the potential threat to Chile’s sovereignty in international courts and the potential of being sued for alleged non-compliance with certain environmental obligations. Shortly after stating his refusal to sign, former president Sebastián Piñera also added that “[w]e have everything that the Escazú Agreement establishes already in our national legislation. It adds nothing.”
The diplomatic difficulties of cooperation
The agreement could also become a catalyzer for Latin American integration, but certain diplomatic obstacles — such as historical Chilean-Bolivian tensions — may be an impediment to these efforts towards regional cooperation. Both countries severed diplomatic relations more than 40 years ago because of the Bolivian claim of sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean, so renewing them may take a considerable effort and long talks between officials.
Furthermore, the still unresolved disagreement around the Silala River raised at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2013, may also slow down the process. President Boric acknowledged that he is aware that such an endeavor will indeed take time and that “[t]he resumption of diplomatic relations is a point of arrival,” and that he “would love to move towards there.”
Stephanie Iancu just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and she is aiming to go on and earn a postgraduate degree in Journalism. Her main areas of interest are politics, women’s rights, human rights and culture. She is currently taking a gap year and staying in New York while interning at Chile Today.