The Global Institute of the Brazilian Federal Public Ministry (MP), released on Wednesday (21) the Public Ministry’s Declaration on Water Rights, also known as Declaration of Brasilia. The event occurred on the last day of the Conference of Judges and Prosecutors within the 8th World Water Forum, at the Ulysses Guimarães Convention Center in Brasília.

The Institute brings together members of public ministries of many nations of the world on behalf of issues related to the protection of natural resources, especially water. The document was signed by nine countries, as well as national and international associations related to the Brazilian Public Ministry (MP).

The goal of the Institute is to stimulate the exchange of information between countries and the exchange of experience in research and environmental processes. The idea is to facilitate the collection of data on the practice of environmental crimes around the world, in addition to setting goals, parameters, tools and common standards for the effective punishment of those responsible for environmental damages and the implementation of compensatory measures, such as the compensation of those affected.

The tasks of the agency include strengthening the members of Public Ministries of the countries that have signed the Declaration so they can enforce national and international environmental legislation, with the aim of promoting public health, boosting the sustainable development and prevent environmental crimes.

Among several activities the Institute will develop, there are the conducting forums and courses for members of the Public Ministry and the production of research, analysis and publications on environmental law. The international organization of the MP has inspired Global Judicial Institute for the Environment, created by Brazilian judges to act as a global forum on the subject.

In addition to the Brazilian Federal Public Ministry, representatives from Mozambique, Honduras, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize and France also signed the charter creating the Institute. Along with the aforementioned, the Brazilian Association of Members of the Public Ministry of the Environment (Abrampa), the Iberoamerican Association of MPs (Aiamp), the European Network of Environmental Public Ministries, the Latin American Network of Environmental Public Ministry and the Standing Committee on  Environment, Housing, Urbanism and Cultural Heritage, which includes the National Council of Attorneys-General (CNPG).

Favorable reviews

The Minister of the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) Herman Benjamin, one of the advocates of the proposal for the creation of the Declaration of Brasilia, praised the initiative. For him, the Institute will give a preventive bias action of public ministries on environmental theme. "We can't protect the environment just punishing. Thus the need for the MP to look forward, with legal measures of precaution and prevention of damage to the environment," he said.

Brian Preston, President of the NSW Land and Environment Court, in Sydney, Australia, spoke of the importance of the Institute to prevent environmental crime. "There are many discussions in [his] the country that are unable to move forward due to the lack of appropriate legislation. For example, hunting crocodiles. We know it's wrong, but the law does not provide for that, and that complicates things. But with the creation of this Declaration we can have common worldwide decisions."

Senegal

The President of the Supreme Court of Senegal, Minister Mamadou took the stage to talk about his country and the importance of water. "We are not so far from the Sahara desert and are often punished with desertification and drought. However, the protection and use of frontier watercourses for our country was authorized by law," he said.

Mamadou took the opportunity and invited the public to the next World Water Forum, in Dakar, in 2021. "We are aware that the water problem is global. The Declaration of Brasilia will be theme of the 9th Forum. You are all invited.

Debate

Before the official launch of the Declaration of Brasilia, but with it already in mind, judges and members of the MP, who act in the  environmental area, discussed a bigger theme: how to prevent and respect the environment.

Silvia Cappelli, Justice Prosecutor in Rio Grande do Sul, started the discussions. "In Brazil, the MP assembled in an association. We defined priorities for going beyond our duty in order to protect the São Francisco river," she said. And added: "Furthermore, one of water’s main characteristic is mobility, so it goes beyond the powers of the public prosecutor. There must be unity, since the contaminated water can pass from one country to another."

Samson Okongo’o, president judge of the High Court of Kenya, first country in Africa to have a chamber specialized in the environment, explained how the proceedings work in his country. "The jurisdiction is limited to disputes relating to the environment and land. We can determine the order of restoration, compensation for the sake of better matching the dispute submitted to the Court. The Justice of Water in Kenya is governed by the Water Law of 2002. This is our legal framework. All water resources belong to and are coordinated by the State. Access to clean water is a fundamental right," he described.

Ricardo Cintra de Carvalho, judge at the of the State Court of São Paulo, pointed out that, in that state, there was a concentration effort on the water problem of and sewage treatment was forgotten. "We, the judges, must also be vigilant in this regard. If need be, we have to condemn the public administration in order to prevent such problems," he pointed out.


*Check out the full Brazilian Portuguese document from Global Institute of Public Ministry here.