IV. Promoting Public Participation
With the support of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, ELI worked with Latin American partners over the past two years to transform environmental decisionmaking in the Americas by promoting the implementation of global principles of public involvement at the regional level. This work was accomplished through ELI’s participation as a key civil society actor in the negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas; through the Institute’s ongoing efforts to create and advocate for the implementation of an enforceable regional instrument outlining standards and procedures for public involvement; and through the development of materials and presentations on innovative procedural tools for access to justice, information, and decisionmaking for a workshop that will train environmental and human rights advocates on practical methods for combining those two interrelated areas of the law in their practice.
A. The World Summit on Sustainable Development
ELI worked with the Center for Human Rights and the Environment (CEDHA) in Argentina to advance public participation and human rights in the official documents of the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD). Building on this collaboration and the work of ELI’s Partnership for Public Participation, ELI and CEDHA continued to work with other NGOs and governments in the Americas to explore how to advance public involvement in the hemisphere. To foster this discussion, ELI and CEDHA hosted a strategy session in October 2002 with representatives from six governments and the Organization of American States to discuss options for improving upon and implementing the 2000 Inter-American Strategy for the Public Participation.
B. Promoting a Hemispheric Instrument
As a result of the October 2002 strategy session ELI and CEDHA worked cooperatively to create and advocate for the implementation of an enforceable regional instrumenting standard and procedure for public participation. They launched a hemispheric listserv dedicated to this topic and organized a network of NGOs to advocate nationally and regionally. In March 2003, Susan Bass, then Director of the Inter-American Program, spoke in support of a hemispheric instrument at the Special Session of the OAS.
In November 2003, ELI attended the Regional Forum on Civil Society in the Hemispheric Integration Process within the Framework of the Special Summit of the Americas. This forum brought together 85 representatives of 71 civil society organizations; representatives of the U.S., Canadian, and Mexican governments; and representatives of several international institutions, to formulate recommendations to be presented to the Heads of State and Governments at the approaching Special Summit of the Americas. ELI and CEDHA wrote an issue paper on the development of a regional instrument on public participation, which was presented at the forum for discussion. The final recommendations produced by the event included several aspects of ELI and CEDHA’s proposal.
In April 2004, ELI was invited to attend a hemispheric forum of civil society organizations that was sponsored by the OAS and the government of Ecuador to gather civil society recommendations for presentation to the heads of state and governments at the upcoming Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly. In preparation for this event, and in response to requests from government and NGO representatives, ELI and CEDHA prepared a policy paper setting forth the justifications for the negotiation of a new hemispheric instrument on access to information and public participation. The paper called for the creation of a working group within the OAS that would have a mandate to identify and analyze the institutional structures and normative and legal frameworks that are necessary to guarantee public participation and access to information throughout the hemisphere. The paper was presented at the civil society forum, and the recommendation for the creation of a working group was included in the final recommendations of this event.
ELI and CEDHA were invited to represent civil society once again at the 34th Regular Session of the General Assembly in 2004, in a formal dialogue with the heads of delegation. Several of the governments present at the dialogue expressed their support for the work on public participation, and in particular for the creation of a working group to further the goals that ELI and CEDHA set forth.
As a parallel effort, ELI and CEDHA worked with the Peruvian government to draft a general assembly resolution on access to public information that included the recommendation for the creation of a working group on public participation and access to information. While the resolution was passed without the inclusion of this particular recommendation, the process expanded the level of support for the working group among several governments and within the OAS itself.
C. Promoting Public Participation in the FTAA
In November 2003, the Americas Trade and Sustainable Development Forum (ATSDF) was held in Miami to provide a forum in which both informal dialogues and substantive exchanges could occur among civil society organizations and between civil society and government officials working on the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). ELI and its partner, the Center for Environment and Human Rights (CEDHA, Argentina), convened a panel that assessed the mechanisms, opportunities, and concrete next steps for ensuring that the three pillars of public participation (access to information, participation in decision-making, and access to justice) are appropriately built into the future normative and regulatory structure of the FTAA, as well as the remainder of the FTAA negotiations process. The panel consisted of representatives of government, non-governmental organizations, and academia from Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and the U.S.
D. Human Rights and Environment Workshops
ELI, in partnership with the Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), the Center for Human Rights and the Environment (CEDHA, Argentina), the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA), and the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law (SPDA), developed and presented two training workshops focused on the integration of environmental and human rights law, and on practical mechanisms for enforcing these laws through the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and Court. The first workshop took place in Mexico City, Mexico in April 2003, and the second in Lima, Peru in May 2003. Dante Figueroa, an ELI visiting scholar and environmental lawyer from Chile, served as a member of the faculty at this training.
The objective of the Mexico City workshop was to offer a space for dialogue among civil society organizations in the Latin American region to discuss the institutional setting of the Inter-American System of Human Rights, to review relevant jurisprudence, and to formulate recommendations and strategies on a case study presented at the workshop related to an indigenous community affected by the illegal logging of their ancestral forests. The workshop was attended by thirty representatives of civil society organizations and academic institutions, mainly from Mexico. Dante Figueroa presented the topic “Petition of Organizations of the Chilean Civil Society before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights concerning the Violation by the Chilean Government, of the Human Rights of Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and Participation, in a case related to Modified Living Organisms.”
The workshop in Peru took place in Lima on May 6-7, 2004. The purpose of this training workshop was also to provide an overview of the legal tools available in the Inter-American System of Human Rights for the protection of environmental rights as related to human rights, when these rights are violated and no remedies are available at the domestic level. Thirty-two representatives of civil society organizations and academic institutions from Peru attended the seminar. Four case studies were analyzed: one related to indigenous populations in voluntary isolation affected by illegal logging; another concerning local communities affected by unlawful fumigations; another addressing the adverse consequences caused by an infrastructure project on indigenous peoples living in the Amazon (this case study was facilitated by Dante Figueroa); and another case aimed at establishing the liability of the Peruvian Government concerning a project in Peru’s coastal area implemented pursuant to an allegedly unlawful government permit.
Inter-American Program Outline
II. Land and Biodiversity
III. Advancing an Agenda for Pollution Prevention
IV. Capacity-Building Initiatives
V. Promoting Public Participation
VI. Related Publications
VII. Contact Us Regarding the Inter-American Program