Fridays for Future calls on world leaders at COP26 to stop the violence against environmental and land defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: School strike for the climate in Milan, Italy, October 1.

Fridays for Future is a youth-led and -organized global climate strike movement that started in August 2018 when Greta Thunberg began a school strike for climate.

They have made six demands of world leaders in the lead-up to the United Nations COP26 climate summit that starts on October 31.

One of those demands is: “Stop the violence and criminalization against indigenous peoples, small farmers, small fisherfolk, and other environmental and land defenders. Support the work they do.  Respect and listen to our defenders.”

This echoes the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution (adopted on March 21, 2019) 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.”

The protection of defenders is urgently needed given Global Witness has documented: “On average, four Defenders have been killed every week since December 2015 – the month the Paris Climate Agreement was signed – with countless more targeted with non-lethal violence or criminalised as a result of their peaceful activities.”

On Friday October 1, Thunberg and Fridays for Future mobilized in Milan, Italy.

Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson was in Milan that day along with representatives from more than 40 other countries to set the final agenda for the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

Aljazeera reported: “[The proposals from the youth] will be vetted by climate and energy ministers’ pre-COP26 gathering in the next few days before the Glasgow conference.”

There has been no clear statement of support yet from the ministers with respect to the urgent protection needs of land and environmental defenders.

Exclusion of defenders from COP26

Fridays for Future has also highlighted: “Now more than ever, we have to join the masses and follow the lead of environmental defenders, workers, and those most ignored.”

And yet Indian Country Today reports: “Limited access to COVID-19 vaccines in certain regions, travel restrictions and quarantine in the United Kingdom for people from ‘red list’ countries in Central and South America, Africa and Asia, and rising costs of travel and lodging are hindering Indigenous participation.”

Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, says: “I’m questioning the legitimacy of this conference, since the people who really need to be there might not be able to attend.”

Andrew Miller of Amazon Watch notes: “It will be interesting to see if there’s any concrete outcome from the COP26 beyond lip service to Indigenous peoples and rights.”

Miller, who is also active with Peace Brigades International-USA, adds: “We always debate whether or not to go to the annual COP meetings. From a cost-benefit perspective, it may not be worth it for Indigenous leaders to spend limited funds and to take two weeks away from essential community organizing against loggers, gold-miners, etc.“

PBI webinar, November 6

Fridays for Futures has also noted: “MAPA (Most Affected Peoples and Areas) are not just sad experiences, we must highlight their rich stories of resistance.”

Peace Brigades International will be amplifying the voices and demands of frontline climate defenders we accompany in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico on a webinar scheduled to take place on Saturday November 6.

Stay tuned for more details on this.

Fridays for Future has announced their next major mobilizations will be on October 22 and November 5.

Canadian Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has yet to commit to the protection of land and environmental defenders, including Indigenous Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en defenders now being criminalized for opposing megaprojects on their territories in Canada.

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