The Global Climate Strike and the crucial role of human rights defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

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The United Nations recently highlighted that human rights defenders play an important role in helping to avert further climate breakdown.

Hopefully that role can also be acknowledged as millions of people around the world join the Global Climate Strike on September 20 and September 27.

That acknowledgement would provide a global spotlight that could help save the lives of defenders working to protect the land, water and air.

On July 30, the Global Witness report Enemies of the State? highlighted that 164 land and environment defenders were killed in 2018.

That report specified that in 2018: 24 land and environment defenders were killed in Colombia, 16 in Guatemala, 14 in Mexico, 4 in Honduras, 2 in Kenya, and 1 in Indonesia.

Now, the report The supply chain of violence highlights that, “Between 2002 and 2017, 1,558 people in 50 countries were killed for defending their environments and lands.”

Between 2014 and 2017, the report notes that the most deaths in the mining sector were in Colombia (25 people) and that the most deaths related to water and dams were in Guatemala (12 people) and Honduras (12 people).

The report further explains that environmental defenders include “community activists, members of social movements, lawyers, journalists, non-governmental organization staff, indigenous peoples, members of traditional, peasant and agrarian communities, and those who resist forced eviction or other violent interventions.”

It notes that the key resource sectors that are driving the violence against human rights defenders are:

1) agribusiness (which includes palm oil plantations, a major contributor to global warming),

2) logging (deforestation in tropical rainforests adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the sum total of cars and trucks on the world’s roads),

3) mining and extractive industries (gold mining drives deforestation of the tropics which would otherwise absorb large amounts of greenhouse gases),

4) water and dams (hydroelectric dams release about a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases worldwide every year), and

5) poaching (just as climate change puts 20-30 per cent of species at risk of extinction).

The report concludes, “People are dying to protect their livelihoods, along with the forests, lands and ecosystems that are essential for all our futures.”

The UN says, “Human rights and the environment are intertwined; human rights cannot be enjoyed without a safe, clean and healthy environment.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council also recently adopted this resolution that stresses that human rights defenders must be allowed to do their work free from insecurity in recognition of the important role they play in supporting countries to fulfil their obligations under the Paris climate agreement.

Peace Brigades International-Canada believes that human rights defenders are essential actors in promoting environmental and social justice. It is vital that countries respect human rights norms in order to avert further climate breakdown.

Look for details here as details become available on the Global Climate Strike marches and rallies taking part in communities across Canada.

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