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 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:
- Current Activities
- Past Activities
- Learn More
EPA supported CAFTA-DR countries in developing the first Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment to strengthen the implementation of inclusive public participation and access to information within existing national EIA frameworks. The CAFTA-DR Regional Guide was modeled after a similar guide for public participation in the EIA process developed by EPA for the Mekong region in South East Asia. To support this work, EPA worked with CAFTA-DR governments to identify international best practices that could be integrated into the legal frameworks of CAFTA-DR countries.
Air pollution from stationary and mobile sources, such as from growing industrialization and increased vehicles on the roads, presents a serious threat to human health and the environment in CAFTA-DR countries and Panama. The goal of the Air Quality Management program is to strengthen design and implementation of air quality management policies and programs in this region.
Improved air quality management will allow CAFTA-DR countries and Panama not only to better characterize and understand air pollution within their major cities from industrial processes and commercial transportation routes, but also to reduce air pollution at local and regional levels.
EPA and its cooperative agreement partner, Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle), in collaboration with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), have designed and are implementing a program to enhance the capabilities of CATFA-DR countries and Panama to improve air quality. This program is divided in three phases:
- Phase I: Identification of key priorities for program design. The priority areas identified by CAFTA-DR countries were: (1) emission inventories, (2) standards and regulations, (3) quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC), and (4) data analysis and equipment.
- Phase II: EPA and Battelle developed and deployed a series of four air quality webinars to address priorities identified by CAFTA-DR countries. Each webinar is designed to help improve the air quality programs of participating countries by providing tools, techniques, expert knowledge and best practices. The general objectives of each webinar are to: 1) Strengthen participant’s ability to develop and improve the policies and practices of air quality management within their countries or organizations; and 2) Strengthen cooperation and collaboration between participating countries, organizations and individuals both within countries and with the region. The webinar materials are available on PAHO’s website , thus giving access to the information to all 39 country members. The PAHO website requires interested participants to create a free account and log in to access the materials.
- Phase III: Continue to leverage our successes in Phases I and II by providing additional assistance and targeted support for the development of emissions inventories and strengthening the monitoring and analytical capacities of select CAFTA-DR countries and Panama.
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) provide a tool to integrate environmental, economic, and social concerns, while mitigating adverse impacts on natural and human environments. EIAs allow governments to set conditions for approval (i.e. for site selection, construction, operation and closure), plan for infrastructure needs and land use, and monitor impacts and compliance.
Involving the public and stakeholders in the EIA process leads to better identification of economic, social, and environmental costs and the development of future monitoring systems. Clear and transparent enforcement of EIA requirements, procedures, and commitments to mitigation and monitoring helps governments, investors, civil society and indigenous groups mitigate risk and increase opportunities for longer term sustainable economic growth.
The goal of this program is to support constructive and meaningful engagement among governments, businesses, and civil society, leading to more informed decisions in the EIA process in CAFTA-DR countries and Panama, and stronger environmental protections.
EPA supported CAFTA-DR countries in developing the first Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment, to strengthen the implementation of inclusive public participation and access to information within existing national EIA frameworks. The CAFTA-DR Regional Guide was modeled after a similar guide for public participation in the EIA process developed by EPA for the Mekong region South East Asia. To support this work, EPA worked with CAFTA-DR governments to identify international best practices that could be integrated into the legal frameworks of CAFTA-DR countries.
Led by a Regional Technical Working Group, the Guide was created and drafted through consensus building, public consultation, and incorporating public comment, leading to a more robust guide for the Region. The Regional Technical Working Group consisted of multiple stakeholders from each country (government ministries, business sector, and civil society groups). Additionally, EPA continues to assist the CAFTA-DR countries to create country specific “Citizen’s Guides to Environmental Permitting” to educate the public on the environmental permitting process and their right to be involved in both environmental review, monitoring and enforcement. Today, four CAFTA-DR – Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador and Dominican Republic—have completed the “Citizen’s Guides.”
The Regional Guide and the completed Citizen’s Guides can be found in Spanish on the project website, Participación Pública en el Processo de EIA.
EPA is assisting Panama to develop the country’s first National Guidelines on Public Participation in the Environmental Impact Assessment Process. The Guide is modeled after the regional guidelines developed for CAFTA-DR countries.
For many years, solid waste management (SWM) in CAFTA-DR countries and Panama has been inadequately implemented and enforced, creating a legacy of open dumps, jeopardizing human health and environmental quality, and hindering tourism and economic development. However, there is growing awareness of the need for environmental protection related to SWM in the region.
Although a few sanitary landfills have been constructed in the larger metropolitan cities of the region, in general 70 – 80% of the garbage generated by citizens is disposed of in open unlined dumps, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Most of the household garbage from small communities is simply dumped at small, unmanaged sites over a ravine or embankment which litters the countryside and waterways. The region does not have much experience in the construction and operation of sanitary landfills or the expertise for the regulatory institutions to inspect and monitor the construction and operation of such facilities.
To help address this issue, EPA developed solid waste management manuals and training with the goal of increasing the technical capacity at the national and sub-national level on landfill management. The target audience for the training is landfill managers and environment/public health/municipal authorities in Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Panama.
A key expected result is an increased technical knowledge on sanitary landfill design, construction, operation and inspection protocols, including the safe closure of existing open dumps
Due to COVID-19, the SWM training (originally planned to be conducted face-to-face) was redesigned into a virtual technical training consisting of the following modules:
- Importance of Proper Landfill Management
- Landfill Construction (Parts 1 & 2)
- Landfill Operations (Parts 1 & 2)
- Fundamentals of Biogas & Collection Systems
- Technologies for Use of Biogas
- Conversion and/or Closure of Open Dumps
This training is based on two manuals developed by EPA in coordination with environmental and health ministries in Central America and funded by USAID as part of its CAFTA-DR environmental assistance program. The two manuals are available in Spanish:
- Manual de Protocolo de Construcción Nuevos Rellenos Sanitarios con Revestimientos (Construction Protocol Manual for New Lined Sanitary Landfills)
- Manual de Protocolo de Operación Nuevos Rellenos Sanitarios para Desechos Sólidos (Solid Waste Operation Protocol Manual for New Sanitary Landfills)
Marine litter from land-based sources primarily comes from littering, dumping, and poor waste management practices. Rivers and other waterways are common entry points for land-based waste to enter the marine environment, as they transport to the oceans waste that is either thrown away, flushed away, or dumped into the such waterways. Marine litter from sea-based sources, like cargo, solid waste, and fishing gear, comes from shipping vessels, ferries and cruise liners, fishing vessels, private vessels, and other industry infrastructure. Abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) is the most prevalent source of sea-based marine litter and can be the most damaging from both an economic and environmental perspective.
Inadequate solid waste management is the biggest challenge in addressing land-based sources of marine litter. It is important that key stakeholders working on national solid waste management regulatory policies and marine litter initiative(s) work together and have a platform to discuss ideas and challenges, as well as synergies and leveraging opportunities to effectively combat such environmental threats.
To assist with these challenges, EPA is facilitating virtual national dialogues—due to the COVID-19 pandemic--in selected CAFTA-DR countries (Costa Rica, and Dominican Republic) and Panama on the SWM and marine litter nexus and how stakeholders can collaborate to ensure initiatives in both areas are better coordinated and complementary of each other. In addition, a series of small-scale pilot projects will be conducted as building blocks to help each country develop a national marine litter action plan.
The goal of this program is to build the capacity of governments, civil society, the private sector, and community leaders to better address marine litter and related solid waste management issues through EPA’s Trash-Free Waters (TFW) approach, utilizing stakeholder engagement and public participation. This approach provides practical steps for countries to examine the marine litter problem holistically with the help of key stakeholders in a logical way that can be tailored to a country’s needs. Stakeholders work together to understand the marine litter landscape and how waste is managed, as well as identify structural and behavioral gaps that lead to marine litter.
A key expected result is an increased knowledge about marine litter and ideas on how to mitigate such challenge in the selected CAFTA-DR countries and Panama. This approach will be based on the principles of inclusive stakeholder participation that would lead up to the development or implementation of a national marine litter action plan in each country.
The goal of the 2013-2018 CAFTA-DR public participation program was 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 conducted six national public participation workshops to increase community awareness of public participation. These efforts allowed the community to be heard and validated, and to influence the decision-making process to protect the environment.
- 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 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 serves as a model for Central America. A video, developed by USAID, highlights the significant progress made.
EPA collaborated with the CAFTA-DR countries to improve and harmonize environmental regulations, policies, and procedures related to solid waste management practices. These actions were 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; and
- a design plan to retrofit an open dump into a sanitary landfill, including the capture and potential use of methane gas, for use as a clean energy source (under the objectives of the Global Methane Initiative).
EPA’s EC-LEDS program provided assistance to Costa Rica on institutionalizing its greenhouse gas inventory preparation process, in the transportation sector. The assistance included support for improved emissions estimates for the transport sector, emissions standards, reduction of sulfur fuel levels, and economic benefit analysis.
- 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.
After signing of the CAFTA-DR Trade Agreement, EPA worked extensively on technical capacity assistance in this region. The first phase of work was funded by USAID and included 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
- CAFTA-DR Free Trade Agreement
- FTA Chapter 17: Environment; Environmental Cooperation Agreement (PDF) (13 pp, 39 K, About PDF)
The following links exit the site
- State Department Bureau of Western Hemisphere page
- US Trade Representative: About the CAFTA-DR -- Full Text -- Environment Chapter (PDF) (13 pp, 39 K, About PDF)
- USAID: Environment and Global Climate Change