Aarhus and Escazú: The two sides of the Atlantic in the field of public participation in environmental matters

On the 2021 Mother Earth Day, Latin-American environmental defenders celebrated the entry into force of the ECLAC Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, also known as the Escazú Agreement (Escazú). It is the only treaty worldwide that explicitly protects environmental defenders and is applicable in a region where, in 2020, seven of the ten countries with the highest number of assassinated activists worldwide were located. However, its enforcement is not a path free of thorns. This post explores how regional treaties that regulate public participation in environmental matters can be enforced (or not) by regional courts. By considering the experience of the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, better known as the Aarhus Convention (Aarhus), this post analyses Escazú’s potential to be integrated into the Inter-American human rights protection system. It also sheds light on social actors’ expectations regarding their possibilities to claim the protection of  ecosystems before regional systems and to be protected by them.