Thunberg’s visit to Mexico could draw attention to the risks faced by human rights defenders
Greta Thunberg’s upcoming visit to Mexico this fall could draw attention to the crucial role at-risk human rights defenders play in upholding our shared right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
Thunberg will be sailing across the Atlantic Ocean this August to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23 in New York City. Following that, she will be visiting Canada, Mexico, Chile and other countries.
The United Nations says, “Human rights and the environment are intertwined; human rights cannot be enjoyed without a safe, clean and healthy environment; and sustainable environmental governance cannot exist without the establishment of and respect for human rights. This relationship is increasingly recognised yet paradoxically environmental rights are increasingly violated.”
Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and David R. Boyd, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, recently acknowledged in this statement the youth who are leading the Fridays for Future school strike for the climate protests.
That’s the movement that grew to global proportions after Thunberg began holding a sign that read Skolstrejk för klimatet (School strike for the climate) outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 to call on the Swedish government to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement reached in December 2015.
Special rapporteurs Forst and Boyd have commented, “We salute their courage and are deeply grateful for their actions, which are desperately needed in today’s political climate of lassitude and decision paralysis.”
This past January, The Irish Times reported, “The ‘global epidemic of murders’ of human rights defenders continued, according to the [Front Line Defenders] report, which said 321 deaths was an increase of nine people on the previous year.”
That article highlighted, “Colombia and Mexico accounted for just over half of these, while the large majority of victims [77 per cent] were involved in work relating to indigenous and environmental issues.”
Then in March, the UN Human Rights Council adopted this resolution that, “Stresses that human rights defenders, including environmental human rights defenders, must be ensured a safe and enabling environment to undertake their work free from hindrance and insecurity, in recognition of their important role in supporting States to fulfil their obligations under the Paris Agreement and to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
Following Thunberg’s visit to Mexico, she will be attending the COP25 UN climate summit in Santiago de Chile, Chile from December 2-13.
That could be another critical opportunity to highlight that protections for human rights defenders engaged in environmental struggles must be fully realized as a crucial pillar in stopping the scourge of further climate breakdown.
Photo by Anders Hellberg.