The Inadequacy of the Citizen Submission Process of Articles 14 & 15 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation
26 Loyola of Los Angeles Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 415 (2004)
31 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2019
Date Written: 2004
The North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) had the potential to transform the trade and environment debate when the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States made citizen participation in environmental law development and enforcement a central component of regional trade issues. The NAAEC’s focus on regional trade issues and citizen participation derive from environmentalists’ opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which they believed would encourage member governments to relax enforcement of environmental laws or weaken environmental laws to attract industry. The NAAEC’s Citizen Submission Process of Article 14 and 15 became the linchpin at the nexus between citizen participation, environmental enforcement, and trade. Through Articles 14 and 15, citizens may present submissions to the Secretariat of the Council for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) alleging failures of a government to enforce environmental law. This innovative mechanism provides a valuable opportunity for North Americans to address enforcement issues in the context of regional free trade.
In its early days, the Citizen Submission Process is widely regarded as an innovative model for accountability and governance for a new breed of international institutions — a positive response to globalization that gives citizens a voice in the often impenetrable affairs of international organizations. This early support, however, has waned considerably as the decisions of the CEC’s Council, comprising the top environmental officials of the three member States, have eroded public confidence in the process. The Council has marginalized the independence of the Secretariat by narrowing the scope of submissions and ignored advice on implementation of the submission process. Moreover, the member governments have chosen to treat the Citizen Submission Process as adversarial, rather than cooperative. This article concludes that significant changes are needed to improve the Citizen Submission Process to restore public confidence in the Process and reaffirm the process’s unique character as a bridge between environment and trade.
Keywords: trade, NAFTA, NAAEC, citizens submission process, transparency
JEL Classification: K32, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation