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Ministry faces criticism by UEF on Escazu Meeting

HeadlineMinistry faces criticism by UEF on Escazu Meeting

Photo: YaYa Marin Coleman, Chairperson of UEF

by Kristen Ku

SAN IGNACIO, Cayo District, Thurs. Mar. 21, 2024

Over 70 environmental organizations were invited today to attend the Escazu Agreement Implementation Roadmap Stakeholder Engagement Meeting in San Ignacio, Cayo.

The Escazu Agreement is the “Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Ratified on March 2023, the Escazu Agreement also emphasizes developing and enhancing capabilities and collaboration to safeguard the rights of current and future generations. It aims to ensure that everyone has the right to live in a healthy and sustainably developed environment.

A year later and today the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management (MSDCCDRM) has called on a stakeholder engagement meeting to participate in the Ministry’s roadmap for implementing the agreement.

“Today really is for the stakeholders to come out and voice their opinions, put in their input so that we can have a comprehensive document that will guide us into that implementation. The consultation process now will really begin with the roadmap being established because it is a strategic plan,” explained Hon. Orlando Habet from the MSDCCDRM.

Stakeholders were given the chance to comment and make recommendations on the roadmap’s baseline assessment presented.

But despite the advancement of the agreement in Belize who now joins 11 other countries in the region, organizations such as the UBAD Education Foundation (UEF) viewed the event differently, suggesting a violation by the Government of Belize due to the lack of public educational campaigns for the public before the event, and thus the lack of vulnerable groups present at the event to participate.

“The government has already violated this treaty. You’re supposed to inform people that you’re having this meeting before you have this meeting. There was already a meeting on July 28, 2021… they didn’t invite UEF; they didn’t know we were doing environmental justice work, no problem. So, now they invited us, but they didn’t invite the rest of the Belizean people,” chairperson for UEF, YaYa Marin Coleman told KREM reporters.

“Secondly, it’s not convenient to have a meeting all the way up here. This agreement says specifically, you have to look for a vulnerable and marginalized community.”

According to Ruth Spencer, local community representative from Antigua & Barbuda, also representing UEF, it has been over 20 years since the inception of the Escazu Agreement, formally called “Principal 10”. And just like the beginning, the power, she says, is found in the people.

“The road map that’s being discussed today is for this greater stakeholder engagement. If that doesn’t happen, it’s just going to be something, you know, on paper. But we want it to work for the people. So they must be involved. They must be empowered. They must have a new voice in their Belize, decision-making processes,” she said.

Minister Habet, however, did not share the same sentiments as the UEF and their sit-in protest, stating that, despite his team’s effort to invite as many groups as possible, it was simply impossible to reach everyone in the event’s first sitting.

“I believe that she’s [Marin-Coleman] moving ahead of the game. I think that today, as I mentioned, is the beginning. I don’t think that it is necessary to have a protest or demonstration, whatever it is. It is the beginning. It will now commence. People will be invited after this, and there will be consultations, certainly in all the districts, to try to get different communities and stakeholders involved,” he said.

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