40% of Activists Killed in 2019 worked on Land, Indigenous Peoples, and Environmental Rights

The Global Analysis 2019 has been published by Front Line Defenders in Dublin.

The reports find that While popular discontent around the climate crisis continued to increase, the link between sustainable development and the work done by defenders of land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights still fails to be politically prioritized and protected, with many defenders of land, environmental and indigenous peoples rights are subjected to physical assaults, defamation campaigns, digital security threats, judicial harassment, and gendered attacks faced by defenders of land rights.

Moreover, the authors argue how the “extractive activities within indigenous peoples’ lands and territories undertaken without adequate consultation or consent are the main sources of serious violations of their human rights, including violence, criminalization, and forced displacement”.

Besides highlighting the threats, the report finds that the number of defenders who are being killed each year remains extremely high with 40% killed in 2019 of whom were working on land rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, and environmental rights.

Land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights remained the most dangerous sector of human rights defense due to the profit-driven exploitation of natural resources, combined with rampant corruption, weak governments, and systemic poverty.

This rush for-profit and models of development based on resource extraction are extremely shortsighted

Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, in a June

“On its current track, climate change will decimate the global economy. According to the IPCC, at 2°C of warming, the world would experience socioeconomic losses amounting to 13% of global GDP and $69 trillion of damage. Accounting only for the rise in temperature, and not the associated extreme weather events, one study found that unmitigated warming is expected to reduce average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widen income inequality.”

Philip Alston warned

The lack of binding regulatory frameworks at the international level is a contributing factor to the risks faced by HRDs, as is the belief that mega-projects, even with environmental safeguards, are essential for ‘development’, despite objections from local communities.

Smear campaigns are extensively used to target human rights defenders to try to reduce their support base, win over public opinion or to justify criminalization processes. According to the report.

In Guatemala, members of the Nuevo Dua Chorti Indigenous Association (CCCDN) were subjected to numerous attacks, intimidation and attempts to divide the community, when they were portrayed as taking advantage of their leadership roles for personal gain. CCCDN provides support to Maya Chorti communities whose way of life is at risk due to hydroelectric and mining projects being implemented on their territories.

In the DRC, three HRDs were arrested following protests against a Canadian-owned company operating palm oil plantations. Following their arrests, the company implied that the defenders were detained as a result of “the assault and battery of company employees and theft from the company.

Global Analysis 2019

While footage of the burning Amazon prompted much rhetoric around the climate crisis from world leaders, the tangible responses of governments to the work of land, indigenous peoples’ and environmental rights defenders were indicative of their real intent. As in every previous year for which since Front Line Defenders started documenting threats against human rights defenders, the reports find that the vast majority of human rights defenders killed in Latin America were those working on the land and environment protection. They were also more likely to face unfair or fabricated judicial proceedings, which were frequently drawn out and costly, sapping the time, resources and energy of communities.

While these defenders should be gaining better protection alongside the global focus on climate change, authorities continue to target them.

Read the Key Finding and Full Report

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