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Access to Environmental Information in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Synthesis of Decisions Adopted by Oversight Bodies and Selected Judgements

Access to public information on environmental matters is necessary for the construction of a socially and environmentally sustainable future. It is a “prerequisite to achieving sustainable development as a whole” and one of the foundations of environmental democracy, along with participation in decision-making processes and access to justice.

The intrinsic relationship between access to information and sustainable development has been recognized by the United Nations. For example, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes specific targets associated with access to information that are especially important for the construction of a sustainable society. Target 16.6 seeks to “develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.” Target 16.10 seeks to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.” 

In her 2023 report to the Human Rights Council, Irene Khan, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, extensively elaborates on the relationship between access to information (and, more broadly, freedom of expression) and sustainable development. In her opinion, access to information is an essential tool to combat illegal deforestation, illicit mining and other activities that degrade natural resources and are an obstacle to sustainable development.

At a regional level, the recent entry into force of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (Escazú Agreement) offers an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on the right of access to public information on environmental matters. 

This document summarizes the legal standards in force in the region, analysing their implementation through a selection of judgements delivered by judicial bodies and decisions adopted by bodies overseeing access to information. 

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