Legal empowerment for environmental justice in Latin America
Historically marginalized communities in Latin America are the most likely to be affected by environmental damage and climate change. They face longstanding barriers in securing their rights and participating in decision-making related to environmental justice and policy despite often being at the front line in defending the environment and natural resources. Although women bear a disproportionate burden of environmental impacts and exclusion, they are playing a leadership role in environmental movements across Latin America. These realities persist in the face of relatively strong legal and constitutional safeguards to protect the environment in countries across the region.
This project will study how legal empowerment tools can assist affected communities in Argentina, Chile and Mexico to ensure existing environmental laws and rights are enforced and respond to community needs. Case studies in each country will build action research processes around pre-existing support to affected communities. For example, in Argentina, the project will work with informal settlement communities along the Matanza Riachuelo River Basin to study strategies to secure the implementation a 2008 Supreme Court ruling to uphold the communities’ environmental rights, as part of larger orders for the clean-up of one of Latin America’s most polluted rivers. Other studies include support to Indigenous communities in Chile and Mexico that are working to protect traditional lands and waterways from environmental damage related to commercial expansion.
Findings and lessons learned in this project will feed into current knowledge about how legal empowerment can increase the voice and leadership of vulnerable and excluded groups to claim their rights, and to improve public accountability and systemic change to tackle inequality and exclusion. It will also contribute to enhancing the impact of legal empowerment organizations and strengthening policy engagement and action across the region.