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Ensuring environmental access rights in the Caribbean: analysis of selected case law 3

Ensuring environmental
access rights
in the Caribbean
Analysis of selected case law
Ensuring environmental
access rights
in the Caribbean
Analysis of selected case law
This document is a joint publication of the Caribbean Court of Justice Academy of Law (CCJ Academy of Law) and the
United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
Justice Winston Anderson, Judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice, and David Barrio Lamarche, Environmental Affairs
Officer of the Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division of ECLAC, prepared this publication with
support from Alicia Carter, Research Assistant of the Caribbean Court of Justice, and Carlos de Miguel and Valeria Torres,
respectively Chief and Economic Affairs Officer of the Policies for Sustainable Development Unit of the Sustainable
Development and Human Settlements Division of ECLAC. The document was prepared under the overall supervision of
Joseluis Samaniego, Chief of the Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division of ECLAC.
The rulings contained in this document are available at the Observatory on Principle 10 in Latin America and the Caribbean:
http://observatoriop10.cepal.org/en.
This document was prepared with financial support from the United Nations Development Account under the project
“Addressing critical socio-environmental challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean”.
The views expressed in this document, which has been reproduced without formal editing, are those of the authors and
do not necessarily reflect the views of the Organization.

United Nations publication


LC/TS.2018/31
Distr.: Limited
Original: English
Copyright © United Nations, 2018 / © Caribbean Court of Justice, 2018.
All rights reserved
Printed at United Nations, Santiago
S.18-00298

This publication should be cited as: Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and Caribbean
Court of Justice Academy of Law (CCJ Academy of Law), Ensuring environmental access rights in the Caribbean: analysis
of selected case law (LC/TS.2018/31), Santiago, 2018.
Applications for authorization to reproduce this work in whole or in part should be sent to the Economic Commission for
Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Publications and Web Services Division, publicaciones@cepal.org. Member
States and their governmental institutions may reproduce this work without prior authorization, but are requested to
mention the source and to inform ECLAC of such reproduction.
Contents
Foreword.............................................................................................................................................................................................................5

Chapter I
Overview of the Caribbean legal framework on environmental access rights.......................................................................................9
A. International and regional obligations on environmental access rights................................................................................................11
1. International agreements................................................................................................................................................................11
2. The Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters
in Latin America and the Caribbean................................................................................................................................................14
3. Subregional obligations on environmental access rights...............................................................................................................16
B. National obligations on environmental access rights............................................................................................................................17
1. Constitutional basis.........................................................................................................................................................................17
2. Statutory basis.................................................................................................................................................................................18

Chapter II
Core elements for ensuring environmental access rights........................................................................................................................25
A. Access to environmental information.....................................................................................................................................................27
1. Scope of the right............................................................................................................................................................................27
2. Definition of environmental information.........................................................................................................................................28
3. Environmental registers...................................................................................................................................................................29
4. Information to participate in environmental decision-making processes.......................................................................................30
B. Public participation in environmental matters.......................................................................................................................................32
1. Scope of the right............................................................................................................................................................................32
2. Obligation to undertake public participation in the absence of statutory provisions.....................................................................34
3. Proper consultation..........................................................................................................................................................................36
4. The role of public participation in Environmental Impact Assessment...........................................................................................37
5. Participation at an early stage and reasonable timeframes...........................................................................................................39
6. Requirements for the notification of the public..............................................................................................................................40
7. Consideration of observations made by the public.........................................................................................................................40
8. Specific measures for the directly affected public and specific groups.........................................................................................42
C. Access to justice in environmental matters...........................................................................................................................................43
1. Legal standing..................................................................................................................................................................................43
2. Costs................................................................................................................................................................................................44
3. Delay in bringing applications for judicial review...........................................................................................................................47
4. Alternatives to Dispute Resolution..................................................................................................................................................48

Chapter III
Selected Caribbean case law on access rights in environmental matters...........................................................................................51

Chapter IV
Final considerations........................................................................................................................................................................................87
Bibliography......................................................................................................................................................................................................91
Annexes.............................................................................................................................................................................................................93

Tables
Table 1 Ratification of multilateral environmental agreements in the Caribbean.............................................................................13
Table 2 General environmental laws in the Caribbean.......................................................................................................................19
Table 3 Physical planning laws in the Caribbean................................................................................................................................22
Table 4 Freedom of information laws in the Caribbean......................................................................................................................23
FOREWORD
Access to justice is central to sustainable development. Advancing the rule of law at the national,
regional and international levels is essential for sustained and inclusive growth, the full realization of
human rights and environmental protection. Embodied in Sustainable Development Goal 16 of the
United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is also a key enabler of all other goals
and targets. In addition to being a right in itself, access to justice is also a means to restore other rights
that have been ignored or violated. In a context of marked inequalities, the rule of law supports better
economic opportunities, provides legal certainty, secures better livelihoods and translates the voices
of individuals and communities —especially those in vulnerable situations— into concrete results and
actions, thus contributing to the creation of safe and peaceful societies.
The Caribbean subregion is no stranger to the empowering role of justice in sustainable development.
Largely based on the common law system, Caribbean jurisdictions have been instrumental in improving
the lives of their peoples and safeguarding their common environment. By upholding fundamental rights
and freedoms such as access to information, participation and justice, the judges and courts of the
subregion have endeavoured to contribute to positive change by delivering an accessible, efficient
justice that reflects the Caribbean legal framework and, most importantly, the values, aspirations and
ideals of its societies.
In an attempt to showcase the judicial developments of the Caribbean and its resolute commitment to
access rights for environmental protection, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America
and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Caribbean Court of Justice Academy of Law (CCJ Academy of
Law) –the educational arm of the Caribbean Court of Justice– have joined efforts to prepare the present
publication. It presents a brief overview of the applicable legal framework and a selection of case law
from high courts of Caribbean countries, providing a synopsis of the innovative judicial treatment of
access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters and identifying
general core elements common to most jurisdictions.
The powerful conclusions of this study are manifold. First and foremost, the Caribbean subregion
has been at the forefront of the implementation of environmental access rights, even before the adoption
of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The many subregional and national
developments highlighted in the present report attest to the remarkable ownership and engagement of
Caribbean countries with regard to Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration. Second, Caribbean jurisprudence
has made strong conceptual contributions through the application of common law principles. Concepts
such as legitimate expectations and the right to a fair hearing or the principles of natural justice and
fairness have proven to be of paramount importance in specifying (and at times expanding) the scope of
access rights, even in the absence of concrete obligations under statutory law. Third, some challenges
in the implementation of environmental access rights remain. Some aspects requiring particular attention
are: establishing clear regulatory frameworks for access to information, ensuring adequate, timely and
inclusive participation in environmental decision-making, with the active participation of all stakeholders
(including the directly affected public and specific groups or communities), or tackling barriers to justice
such as legal standing and costs.
The recently adopted Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and
Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, in which the Caribbean
played a particularly active role, will definitively contribute to bridging the existing gaps and furthering
the implementation of environmental access rights in the Caribbean.
8 Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

It is our hope that the present publication will inspire those in the Caribbean who make and apply
decisions to continue progress in the implementation of environmental access rights for the benefit
of our societies and our environment. As the main bulwark against disempowerment, exclusion and
discrimination, judges and courts will continue to be decisive in placing equality at the heart of sustainable
development and ensuring it becomes a reality for all.

Alicia Bárcena Sir Dennis Byron


Executive Secretary President of the Caribbean
Economic Commission for Latin America Court of Justice
and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
CHAPTER I

Overview of the Caribbean


legal framework on environmental
access rights

A. International and regional obligations


on environmental access rights
B. National obligations on environmental access rights