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International Cooperation

Capacity-Building Programs Under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR)

The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) includes Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the United States.

EPA works as an implementation partner with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State (DOS) on environmental capacity building within the CAFTA-DR region, in accordance with the priorities outlined in the CAFTA-DR Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA)


Explore our CAFTA-DR work in the following sections: 


July 2016: CAFTA-DR celebrated its 10th anniversary during the most recent Ministerial Environmental Council Meeting (ECA) held in San Salvador, El Salvador.  The council members from each CAFTA-DR country recognized its environmental achievements, including:

  • enhanced procedures for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), 
  • four wastewater national reference labs (El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala) and one regional reference lab (Costa Rica), 
  • the first air quality index in the region (El Salvador), 
  • over 120,000 people trained in environmental policy and enforcement, and 
  • more than 20 million people reached through environmental awareness campaigns. 

Council members also identified environmental regional challenges for the next ten years, including water efficiency, public participation, air quality management, and solid waste management. CAFTA-DR funding partners (DOS and USAID) will continue to work with EPA to address the regional environmental challenges with member countries through technical capacity building.  The next CAFTA-DR ministerial ECA meeting will be hosted by Costa Rica in 2017.

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Public Participation

Public participation is an essential element in creating sustainable environmental protection. The active engagement of civil society in environmental decision-making and enforcement is a key factor in ensuring that CAFTA-DR governments not only comply with their regulations, but also increase environmental protection, especially for underserved communities.  In countries with limited resources and changing administrations, public participation, education, and transparency are essential.

The goal of the CAFTA-DR public participation program is to create a network of trained public participation experts in the region, and to use public participation, education and outreach to engage communities in environmental decision-making processes to help enforce environmental laws. 

This work included a regional public participation workshop with local NGOs in July 2016. In 2017, EPA expects to conduct six national public participation workshops to increase community awareness of public participation.  These efforts will allow the community to be heard and validated, and to influence the decision-making process to protect the environment. 

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

The EIA process provides a systematic means to identify the potential negative environmental consequences of specific proposed actions and formulate alternative means to achieve the same purpose with fewer environmental impacts as well as develop effective mitigation or compensatory measures for the negative environmental impacts that are unavoidable. EPA continues to provide EIA technical assistance to the CAFTA-DR countries’ Ministries of Environment and their EIA Directors to strengthen environmental impact assessment preparation and EIA reviews for effective decision-making. EPA’s assistance is focused on:
  • Country-specific and regional reforms through EIA; 
  • Technical assistance for the NEPAssist Geographic Information System-web screening tool;
  • EIA Process Administrative Tracking;
  • Technical Review Guidelines on EIA; and
  • EIA Review Process through recommended regional and country-specific reform agendas.

Under the CAFTA-DR technical capacity building program, EPA has provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in El Salvador, on its national EIA permitting process.  El Salvador’s enhanced EIA permitting process may serve as a model for Central America.  A recent video, developed by USAID, highlights the significant progress made.  

Wastewater Model Regulation

EPA provides technical assistance to the CAFTA-DR countries in the development of a regional model wastewater regulation, as part of the harmonization of environmental regulations, policies and procedures program. 
All countries have begun implementation of at least two of 12 basic elements to implement a wastewater management program, and have been provided with tools to establish wastewater discharge parameters for key industrial sectors in the region. 
In addition, EPA has trained wastewater labs in the region on ISO 17025 Water Quality Standards, leading to the selection of a regional and four national Reference Labs. EPA is also completing a manual on appropriate wastewater treatment for the region. 

Solid Waste Management 

EPA collaboration with the CAFTA-DR countries aims to improve and harmonize environmental regulations, policies, and procedures related to solid waste management practices. Such actions are expected to be accomplished through information exchanges and training, including:

  • courses on sanitary landfill inspection protocol and audits; 
  • development of regulations, policies and procedures for sanitary landfills and solid waste practices;
  • capture and potential use of methane gas as a clean energy source under the objectives of the Global Methane Initiative or contained generation of methane via anaerobic digestion or waste; and 
  • a demonstration project for closing open dumps.

EC-LEDS (Enhancing Capacity - For Low Emissions Development Strategies)

EPA’s EC-LEDS assistance to Costa Rica is focused on institutionalizing its greenhouse gas inventory preparation process, in the transportation sector. The assistance may include support for improved emissions estimates for the transport sector, emissions standards, reduction of sulfur fuel levels, and economic benefit analysis. 

Enforcement and Compliance

Previous EPA work under CAFTA-DR helped strengthen the work of prosecutors and judges through training in some countries as well as through the compilation of legal reference materials. A regional legal compendium was prepared and made available to all environmental prosecutors in each country, together with a national compilation of environmental jurisprudence and a manual on investigation, prosecution and sentencing of environmental crimes.
EPA will continue to provide training to ensure existing gaps are addressed.  The capacity assistance is expected to include information exchange and training in areas such as: 
  • Investigation of environmental crimes to strengthen environmental law enforcement, including both men and women in the trainings; and
  • Adjudicating environmental cases to strengthen the judicial response to environmental violations, including both men and women in the training.

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Past Activities

Past EPA efforts in the CAFTA-DR countries have included technical capacity assistance in the following areas: 

  • Harmonization of Environmental Regulations
  • Policies and Procedures (Wastewater) 
  • Environmental Law Enforcement
  • Environmental Management Systems
  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
  • Hazardous Substances and Sound Management of Chemicals
  • Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM)
  • Pollutant Release and Transfer Registry (PRTR)
  • Urban Air Quality Management
  • Land Use/Land Cover Mapping
  • Green Customs

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Agreements and Relevant Documents

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The following links exit the site Exit

US Department of State US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Guatemala Ministry of Environment El Salvador Ministry of Environment
Honduras Ministry of Environment Nicaragua Ministry of Environment
Costa Rica Ministry of Environment Dominican Republic Ministry of Environment
Central America Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD)  

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Learn More About the Western Hemisphere and the Caribbean

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For additional information on EPA's work with Latin America and the Caribbean, contact:
Orlando Gonzalez
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2650R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-6446