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Rule of Law Assessment of Environmental Public Administration in Colombia

Environmental governance has a key role in the sustainable development of a country. The public administration acts as the interface between the government and citizens and its good governance improves the quality of people’s lives and of the environment by translating policies into action. Therefore, it is important that its inner workings, leading to administrative decision-making, are defined by clear values and principles that are guided by the rights of all individuals regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or class. This is where connecting public administration with the practice area of the Rule of Law can strengthen environmental governance. Basic Rule of Law principles ensure that all persons must comply with the law, are protected by it and that no single person or institution is above the law. There are six basic principles of the Rule of Law, namely transparency, legality, the right to be heard, the right to appeal, access to information and accountability. The potential positive social and environmental outcomes of introducing the Rule of Law principles into the workings of the public administration are often under-examined and under-utilized.

To address this need, a new UNDP-SEPA global programme on environmental governance of the mining sector will assess environmental public administration and specifically how it integrates the principles of the Rule of Law in its decision-making processes, including the right to a safe and clean environment. The mining sector is a particularly disputed arena when it comes to environmental governance. It is a sector that can contribute to the economic development of a country, but also one that can lead to major negative environmental and social impacts that must be overcome and minimized. The Programme is implementing a jointly developed Rule of Law in Public Administration (ROLPA) toolkit in Mozambique, Mongolia, and in Colombia. This is part of an innovative project because it aims to integrate the six fundamental Rule of Law principles in the environmental licensing of mining projects. By doing so, the people who are affected by mining projects will be more empowered to participate in the administrative decision-making. This in turn ensures better environmental management and ultimately a higher standard of living. The programme is designed to tackle barriers to the quadruple bottom line of sustainable development – people, planet, prosperity and peace.

 

In Colombia, the Rule of Law assessment is about to kick off. Its pilot phase is explained by Lorena Franco Vidal, expert on biodiversity and part of the UNDP Colombia Sustainable Development Team, which is leading the project at the national level. The project will be conducted as a self-assessment at two levels: the national and the regional level. At the national level, mining project environmental licenses granted by the National Authority of Environmental Licenses (ANLA) will be assessed. These are large-scale mining projects, which require exploiting a significant amount of natural resources and therefore the adequate institution to grant these licenses is ANLA. The sub-national level will focus on small-scale mining operations and will assess the licensing procedures of Regional Autonomous Corporation for Choco’s Sustainable Development (CODECHOCO), the environmental authority in the Chocó, a region on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Chocó is one of the areas in Colombia, and in the world, which is most rich in biodiversity. It is also home to indigenous peoples with traditional practices whose vulnerability is reflected in the social indicators of this region, which are significantly lower than in the rest of Colombia.

 

The ROLPA assessment will help key public administrative agencies in Colombia identify gaps in the practice of the six basic principles of the Rule of Law in the environmental licensing process for mining projects. Based on that, recommendations can be made on how to make the mining sector a more positive driver of inclusive people-centered development with respect for the sustainability of the environment.

 

If you are interested in joining in on discussions related to environmental governance, human rights and the mining sector, please join the Environmental Governance of the Mining Sector Group. Thank you!

 

This blog entry was written with the guidance of Lorena Franco Vidal and Pelle Lutken.

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Comment by Tim Scott on November 1, 2016 at 11:40

Dear Tiffany and colleagues,

Thanks for sharing this information on the Rule of Law assessment. This is a practical tool for exploring the challenges and opportunities for strengthening the public administration of the mining sector in ways  ensure the rights of women and men at the community level are protected. These include the rights to participation, access to information, and justice in line with Principle 10 and the Bali guidelines. The toolkit seems especially flexible for adapting to local context. This is of course important in terms of national ownership and practical application. Even more important than the survey questions is the process that the ROLPA toolkit is used to support broader awareness raising and capacity building activities in line with each country's policy frameworks and SD priorities.

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