Environment Program Partners with WECAN on Escazú Agreement Toolkits Launched on Earth Day

April 2024

The toolkits, covering five countries in the Americas, provide guidance on the rights of women land defenders and offer practical tools to help defend them.

Speakers and attendees, including Vance Center Environment Program Advisor Nathalya Desterro (center in front of banner) and WECAN Executive Director Osprey Orielle Lake (right, holding banner) at an event in New York City, April 17. 2024. Photo: WECAN

In partnership with client the Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, International (WECAN), the Vance Center’s Environment Program has since last year worked with its international network of law firms to develop the Escazú Agreement Toolkits for Women Land Defenders and Frontline Communities for five countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

WECAN launched the five toolkits in a live online event on Earth Day, April 22. They are available on the Women for the Escazú Agreement page on WECAN’s website. These five toolkits are part of an ongoing effort to support women land defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean, with more resources planned for release later in 2024. 

The project aimed to create a practical document that would be accessible to non-legal audiences and offer comprehensive legal guidance on priority topics including the rights of women land defenders, scenarios in which defenders’ rights are violated, and local resources to access free, pro bono, or discounted legal assistance. WECAN and the Vance Center’s Environment Program staff worked with local and global firms with expertise in the selected jurisdictions to develop user-friendly toolkits that cover both general rights, like the right to life, the right to a healthy environment, and the right of petition and due process; and specific rights, like the rights of human rights defenders and women’s rights. Examples of scenarios that amount to violations of the rights of these defenders range from digital surveillance, criminalization of protest, and environmental violations, to extreme physical threats such as sexual harassment and abuse and even murder.

The Earth Day launch also coincided with the first day of the third Conference of the Parties to the Escazú Agreement (COP3), hosted in Santiago, Chile. This year, COP3 participants gathered to decide on key issues including national implementation of the agreement, mainstreaming the gender perspective, and approving the Action Plan on Human Rights Defenders in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, among others. 

This is the Environment Program’s third project with WECAN to support human rights, the environment, and land defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean. The program has previously prepared Escazú Agreement reports for six countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru), and Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) reports for the same countries, except for Antigua and Barbuda. Both projects concluded with workshops presenting these reports to frontline defenders in WECAN’s network and other audience members.