Meet the environmental defenders who will speak on PBI’s webinar about COP27 on November 15

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To register for our COP27 webinar on November 15, please click here.

The United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) 27 talks will be taking place this coming November 6-18 in Egypt.

The UN Human Rights Council has affirmed 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.”

That resolution was passed in March 2019. Since then, at least 639 land and environmental rights defenders have been killed.

Our webinar will discuss the crucial role of environmental defenders and water protectors, their frontline struggles, the risks they face, and what they expect from COP27.

Yuli Andrea Velásquez Briceño (Colombia)

Yuli is an environmental leader who works together with fishing communities to protect the environment, especially in the conservation of the waters of the wetlands surrounding the city of Barrancabermeja. Since January 2021, Yuli has suffered three attempts on her life and multiple threats, which occur just after carrying out verifications of environmental impacts caused by the oil industry or after denouncing acts of corruption.

Ana Paola Torres Barranco (Mexico)

Ana is a member of the People’s Front in Defense of Land and Water. The FPDTA has been working for more than 10 years in defense of the land, territory and the self-determination of Indigenous peoples, against extractivist projects, notably the Morelos Integral Project (PIM) for which they have been threatened, attacked, harassed and criminalized. Náhuatl land defender and Peoples’ Front member Samir Flores Soberanes was murdered in 2019 for his opposition to the PIM pipeline-thermoelectric-aqueduct megaproject.

Gladys Losike (Kenya)

Gladys is a women human rights defender and Gender and Protection Focal Person with the organization Nanyuki-based Samburu Women Trust, an Indigenous women-led organization that champions the rights of women and girls. She will speak about how climate change and droughts impact young people, with a focus on women and girls. She is an advocate of young Indigenous women and girls’ inclusion in climate change strategies and discussions at the local and national level.

Walter Rene López Perez (Guatemala)

Walter is a 27-year-old defender whose work began six years ago when his community’s struggle against the privatization of water and the limitation of access to it due to the disproportionate use of that water by sugar mills began. He is a member of the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu (CCR), an organization whose main objective is the defense of the territory and human rights, especially the right of access to water, life and small-scale agriculture. Four of members of the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu have been criminalized for their defence of the human right to water.

Amaru Ruíz (Nicaragua)

Amaru is a biologist, researcher, environmentalist, and the president of the Fundación del Río, an organization focused on sustainable development and the conservation of natural assets in southeastern Nicaragua. In December 2018, Ruíz was forced into exile following warnings about threats of arrest and imprisonment and after suffering an attack on his life in his own home. From Costa Rica he continues to accompany Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities.

Christopher Castillo (Honduras)

Christopher is the General Coordinator of the Honduran Alternative for Community and Environmental Vindication (ARCAH), an organization that defends water and advocates against extractive projects. He and six other environmental defenders were arrested in March 2021 and placed under house arrest. They were charged with “forced displacement” for holding a peaceful demonstration in front of the offices of the poultry company “El Cortijo” to protest against the company’s activities that have polluted the Choluteca River.

Introductory comments by Pedro Arrojo Agudo (UN Special Rapporteur)

Pedro is the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. He has served as a member of the Spanish Parliament and was a professor at the University of Zaragoza (1989-2011). In 2003, he was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for his contributions to conservation of water ecosystems and his involvement in water conflicts that affect the human rights of communities in vulnerable situations.

Hannah Matthews (moderator)

Hannah is the international communications coordinator for Peace Brigades Internationa. She is based in Oaxaca, Mexico. She was a field volunteer with PBI-Colombia accompanying at-risk human rights defenders from 2014 to 2017.

To register for our COP27 webinar on November 15, please click here.

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