Lead authors: Renzo Lavin & Carolina Cornejo (ACIJ)
Contributing authors: Sruti Bandyopadhyay (World Bank)
- Module 01
- Other Relevant Stakeholders
How can all these stakeholders work together to strengthen accountability?
A case study in Argentina regarding environment, health, and sanitation
The Mendoza case is an Argentinean public interest litigation case against the National Government, the Province of Buenos Aires, the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, and 44 companies regarding health damages suffered from the environmental contamination of the Matanza-Riachuelo river basin. This case was initiated in 2004 by Beatriz Mendoza—an inhabitant of the polluted area—and entailed an inter-jurisdictional problem that has (a) mobilized several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the National Ombudsman to demand corrective action, (b) triggered a response by the judiciary, and (c) involved the General Audit Office in the process of policy implementation.
In 2006, the Supreme Court of the Nation decided to take up the collective environmental case and ordered defendants to submit an integrated plan to clean the river basin. The court did not make the public policies relevant to the issue but charged political authorities with that task. Because of the institutional fragmentation in the inter-jurisdictional river basin, the Federal Government, theProvince of Buenos Aires, and the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires decided to form the ACUMAR, the inter-jurisdictional river basin authority. Public hearings were held the first two years, during which the defendants presented the integrated plan and informed the public about progress made.
Attesting that pollution of the river had led to a range of human rights violations—such as violations of the right to health, water, housing, and a clean environment—the ombudsman and some NGOs working in the field were accepted as third parties in the case. In addition, the court commissioned the University of Buenos Aires to evaluate the integrated plan.
After a second round of public hearings in 2008, the court issued a landmark judgment that ordered the responsible authorities to implement a program of specific public policies to restore the environment, prevent future harm, and improve the lives of the inhabitants of the river basin.
The ombudsman and NGOs were tasked with forming a monitoring committee to control the implementation. In addition, the General Audit Office would be in charge of controlling the economic aspects. Furthermore, judicial control with the implementation was delegated to a federal judge of the Quilmes Court. Finally, regarding policy design, public hearings would be carried out, and a process of dialogue between all parties in the Mendoza case—including inhabitants of the river basin area—would be initiated. This response opened the political space for solving the problem, which is still being implemented.
The Mendoza case illustrates how the responsibilities and efforts of multiple social and institutional stakeholders can be merged and articulated along the policy process (design, implementation, and evaluation) toward strengthened accountability in areas that concern human rights, service delivery, and development.