When climate crisis meets human rights conundrum: Decoding death curves of environment, land avengers

What is the news? 

Recently, Global Witness Foundation, a Washington DC-based human rights watchdog, released its latest report titled Last Line of Defence.  

The report discusses the environment and land rights activists. As per the report, 227 environment and land rights activists were murdered globally in 2020.   

What are the key findings of the report? 

Firstly, the report defined land and environmental defenders as “people who take a stand and peaceful action against the unjust, discrimi­natory, corrupt or damaging exploitation of natural resources or the environment.” 

Secondly, they are often targeted for protecting particular ecosystems. They generally reside with communities whose land, health and livelihoods are in jeopardy by mining, logging, agribusiness companies or other industries.  

Thirdly, nearly 71 per cent of those who died had been working to defend the world’s forests from deforestation and industrial expansion. Others died for their work protecting rivers, coastal areas and the oceans.   

Fourthly, nearly three-fourth of the recorded attacks took place in the Amazon region in Brazil and Peru. Nicaragua was the most dangerous country per capita for land and environmental defenders in 2020. 

Fifthly, at least one in 10 defenders killed in 2020 was women. Women often face a double challenge: The public struggle to protect their land, water and the planet, and the often-invisible struggle to defend their right to speak within their communities and families. In many parts of the world, women are still debarred from land ownership.  

Lastly, violence against land and environmental defenders is more asymmetrical and is overpoweringly concentrated in countries in the Global South. 

What are the recommendations? 

Accountability: Governments and companies need to be held accountable for violence against environmental and land defenders, who are often standing on the front line of the climate catastrophe.  

The United Nations should formally recognize the human right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment.   

On the national front, governments can protect environment and land defenders by ensuring effective and robust regulatory protection of the environment, labour rights and land rights to free and prior and informed consent. 

There should be provision for mandatory human rights due diligence (m-HRDD) for domiciled companies and financial institutions, and ensure access to remedy (A2R) or access to justice and due process. 

Source: This post is based on the article “When climate crisis meets human rights conundrum: Decoding death curves of environment, land avengers” published in the Down to Earth on 14th September 2021. 

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