CAFTA-DR Environmental Cooperation Program

In February 2005, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the United States (the CAFTA-DR countries) signed an Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA). In it, they acknowledged that economic development, social development and environmental protection are interdependent, mutually-reinforcing factors in achieving sustainable development for the well-being of present and future generations. The CAFTA-DR countries (or Parties) developed the ECA in concert with Chapter 17 (Environment) of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). In Chapter 17, the Parties commit to expanding their cooperative relationship, recognizing that cooperation is important for achieving their shared environmental goals and objectives and that strengthening their cooperative relationship on environmental matters can enhance environmental protection in their territories and may encourage increased trade and investment in environmental goods and services.

Since then, the CAFTA-DR countries have evolved a program of cooperative action to advance their common development goals by building the capacities of government and civil society, including non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the general public, to protect, improve and conserve the environment.

Focusing on four thematic areas, the Environmental Cooperation Program carries out numerous activities, reaching thousands of people across broad and varied geographical and social spectrums.

CAFTA-DR is the first free trade agreement between the United States and a group of smaller developing economies. This agreement is creating new economic opportunities by eliminating tariffs, opening markets, reducing barriers to services, promoting transparency, and establishing state-of-the-art rules for 21st century commerce. It is facilitating trade and investment among the parties and furthering regional integration.

Central America and the Dominican Republic represent the third largest U.S. export market in Latin America, behind Mexico and Brazil.

U.S. exports to the CAFTA-DR countries were valued at $26.3 billion in 2008. Combined total two-way trade in 2008 between the United States and Central America and the Dominican Republic was $45.6 billion.

Program Information

The Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA) sets out the framework for developing, implementing and evaluating an environmental cooperation program under the supervision of an Environmental Cooperation Commission (ECC), composed of government representatives from the relevant ministry or department of each party. Designated representatives from those ministries or departments serve as general Points of Contact (POCs) for cooperative work under the ECA.

In terms of areas and modalities of operation, the ECA emphasizes capacity building; development of voluntary mechanisms, such as partnerships, market-based initiatives and economic incentives; adoption of best practices; and exchange of information.

Chapter 17 refers to the ECA in several places including in Article 17.9 and Annex 17.9, which identifies priorities for environmental cooperation activities.

Program Activities

The CAFTA-DR Environmental Cooperation Program activities are geographically diverse and multi-dimensional. They involve the efforts of persons from many backgrounds and social and economic sectors. Program activities…

  • Are categorized by their primary objective under four major Program Themes.
  • May be regional or may differ from country to country, and may change from time to time depending on needs and priorities.
  • Are implemented by governments and their various designated agencies and national institutions, educational institutions, contractors and non-governmental organizations.
  • Take place across the CAFTA-DR landscape—in cities, towns, rural and protected areas and marine environments.
  • Are often multi-faceted, involving government and civil society, including NGOs, the private sector and the general public in complementary ways as participants and beneficiaries
  • Consist of one or a combination of types of activities designed to promote cooperation in environmental protection:
    • Training and Capacity Building…to improve institutional, professional and scientific skills
    • Assessments, Studies and Analyses…to develop effective frameworks and procedures, model laws and regulations and recommendations on best practices
    • Seminars, Conferences and Other Exchanges…to facilitate information dissemination and joint action among government, business, academic and nongovernmental organizations
    • Demonstrations, Publications and Facilitation of Linkages…to introduce or develop voluntary mechanisms to encourage compliance with norms and adoption of best practices
    • Outreach and Educational Programs…to promote public participation in environmental decision-making and enforcement

Each Environmental Cooperation Program activity is categorized under one of four main “themes” reflecting the ECA’s objectives and areas of emphasis and Program experience to date.  Most activities are composite, however, with the result that, although reported under one “theme”, an activity may also contribute to achieving results under other themes.

  • Institutional Strengthening seeks to ensure that environmental laws and policies provide for and encourage high levels of environmental protection, that enforcement is effective and that the public has opportunities and the means to actively participate in environmental decision-making and enforcement.

    Activities concentrate on

    • Laws and Policies.  Developing norms, procedures and models for environmental impact assessment, waste management, chemical and hazardous substance management, urban air quality and environmental claims
    • Enforcement.  Training officials, such as prosecutors, investigators, customs inspectors and judges; assisting laboratories; coordinating officials responsible for enforcing laws related the sustainability of fisheries; developing performance indicator
    • Public Participation.  Creating easy access to reliable information, providing forums, processes and procedures for public involvement; educating the public on how to engage in environmental decision-making 

  • Biodiversity and Conservation focuses on protecting wildlife and habitat by combating illegal trade in endangered species and by promoting sustainable management of forests, protected areas, and other important ecosystems

    Activities focus on

    • CITES Implementation.  Training and other capacity-building activities for officials responsible for implementing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES)
    • Wildlife Protection.  Support for animal rescue facilities, training of shrimpers to reduce by-catch of endangered turtles, public education on the economic and ecological importance of protecting wildlife
    • Ecosystem Management.  Preventing illegal logging, improving management of wildlife and ecologically important ecosystems
  • Market-Based Conservation promotes projects which generate income and, at the same time, conserve the natural resource base for continued and future income and economic growth.  The Program works with communities, small businesses and government to develop sustainable ecotourism and agricultural, forest and fishery product production within protected areas, biological corridor buffer zones and other ecologically important ecosystems.

    Activities include  Production and marketing support for farmers, such as training in sustainable agricultural methods for banana, coffee and cacao production; training in best practices for collection and processing specialty coffee; technical assistance to improve market access through certification and product visibility

  • Private Sector Environmental Performance promotes the adoption of clean production methods and environmental management systems to improve a company’s competitive advantage by reducing resource consumption and waste.  The Program works with financial institutions, enterprises and clean production centers to develop and facilitate voluntary mechanisms for cleaner production and to provide incentives and high-profile recognition for companies using improved processes and technologies.

    Examples of activities are:  Multi-sector roundtables on best practices; work with representatives of the private sector and governments to develop regional policies; technical assistance to Small and Medium Enterprises; assessments in pig, poultry and dairy sectors