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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 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: 


El Salvador has implemented the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) online permitting system, with assistance from EPA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The online permitting system reduces time and uncertainty in the environmental permitting process, and has increased infrastructure investment in the country. The system utilizes a GIS proximity tool, developed and used by EPA, to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a proposed project and determine what level of environmental analysis is needed for the project. 

The El Salvador Ministry of Environment is currently working to connect the permitting system to its online compliance and enforcement platform, which was developed independently by El Salvador using the technology and knowledge gained from the project. This project is now financially independent, and has continued to include additional sectors despite the discontinuation of external funds. 

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Current Activities

Air Quality Management

Air pollution from stationary and mobile sources, such as growing industrialization and vehicles on the roads, presents a serious threat to human health and the environment in CAFTA-DR countries. 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 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, in collaboration withe the Pan-American Health Organization, have designed and are implementing a program to enhance the capabilities of CATFA-DR countries 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 objective of each webinar is 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 in PAHO’s website Exit, thus giving access to the information to all 39 country members. The PAHO’s 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.

Public Participation in the Environmental Impact Assessment Process

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 engagement among governments, businesses, and civil society, toward more informed decisions in the environmental impact assessment process in CAFTA-DR countries. 

EPA is working to develop Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment, to strengthen the implementation of inclusive public participation and availability of information within existing national EIA frameworks. The CAFTA-DR regional guidelines will be modeled after a similar guide for public participation in the EIA process developed by EPA for the Mekong region. To support this work, EPA will work with CAFTA-DR governments to identify international best practices that could be integrated into the legal frameworks of CAFTA-DR countries. 

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Past Activities

Public Participation

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. 

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

EPA provided 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 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 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.  

Wastewater Model Regulation

EPA provided 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 continue to implement 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 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 also completed a manual on appropriate wastewater treatment for the region. 

Solid Waste Management 

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). 

The full set of documents associated with this design plan are available in Spanish.Exit


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

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. 

Enforcement and Compliance

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's capacity assistance included 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.

Initial Efforts (2007-2012)

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

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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) Pan-American Health Organization
Batelle Institute  

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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