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HRC40 | States should defend environmental human rights defenders

We all want to breathe clean air, drink safe water, and to be able to provide sustenance and a healthy, dignified life for our families. Human survival and well-being rests on a biodiverse and healthy environment and a safe climate. Environmental human rights defenders help us to achieve that - they defend the planet and their communities from the impact of harmful resource extraction or pollution by unscrupulous companies or governments. Their work is essential to attaining the sustainable development goals and ensuring that no-one is left behind.

ISHR update: The draft resolution on environmental human rights defenders has now been formally ‘tabled’ at the Human Rights Council, meaning it is scheduled for consideration and adoption by the Council on 22 and 23 March. The draft resolution is a timely and important statement on the vital role of environmental human rights defenders in safeguarding biodiversity, addressing climate change, achieving sustainable development and promoting and protecting all human rights.

However, while the resolution contains some important elements, several of the below civil society asks are still missing. In particular, the resolution should :

· more clearly identify and name the root causes and perpetrators at the heart of the insecurity facing environmental human rights defenders;

· increase the demands on States and businesses with regard to conducting due diligence on business and development activities; and

· include specific calls on investors and development finance institutions to use their influence to better protect environmental human rights defenders.

As the negotiations at the Human Rights Council enter their final phase, ISHR calls on all States and civil society to continue to push for the inclusion of key civil society asks, and to use the remaining days to work towards the adoption of a strong resolution on environmental human rights defenders. The resolution, as currently drafted, is an important step but does not yet represent the unequivocal signal in support of environmental activists the Council should send.

Civil society* from across the world are calling on all UN Member States to demonstrate their support to environmental human rights defenders.

At its current 40th session, the Human Rights Council is discussing a draft resolution on environmental human rights defenders. This is a timely and important initiative as UN agencies, human rights organisations and the media have documented unprecedented killings and attacks against people defending land and the environment.

It is important for the Council to adopt a resolution that reflects the gravity and the reality of the situation defenders face every day. Our organisation therefore call on members of the UN Human Rights Council to ensure that the resolution adopted by the Council clearly:

  • Outlines the root causes of the threats against environmental human rights defenders, including development and commercial activities with adverse social and environmental impacts, or those imposed on communities without meaningful consultation and respect for their rights;
  • Recognises that environmental human rights defenders confront multiple adverse interests when challenging State and corporate activities, and highlights the collusion between different actors which hinders the work of defenders and aggravates their vulnerable position;
  • Clearly names the industries and activities most dangerous to defenders, such as the mining industry, natural resource exploitation, agribusiness and large-scale development projects;
  • Acknowledges the wide number of States that have recognised the right to a healthy environment in their internal legal order;
  • Recognises that the lack of effective access to information, access to participation and access to justice causes environmental conflicts and leads to violence against defenders;
  • Calls for the development of protection mechanisms for environmental human rights defenders in line with best practice identified by the Special Rapporteur;
  • Articulates the specific risks women and indigenous human rights defenders face and the need for an intersectional approach in assessing and designing protection measures for defenders;
  • Calls on States to ensure that all communities are meaningfully consulted and can participate genuinely in matters that affect their rights and, in particular the use, management and conservation of their land and natural resources;
  • Calls on States to guarantee the right to free, prior and informed consent for indigenous peoples;
  • Calls on States to adopt legislation that creates due diligence obligations for companies registered in their jurisdictions and those of their subsidiaries;
  • Articulates the responsibility of businesses to respect the rights of human rights defenders and highlights measures companies should take to contribute to addressing their insecurity;
  • Adequately articulates the responsibility of investors and the obligations of development finance institutions to respect human rights in the context of their investments and to develop and implement effective policies to prevent and address threats; and
  • Stresses that an open civic space, including respect for the rights to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association and movement, as well as the right to participate in the conduct of government and public affairs, is vital to the protection of both a healthy and sustainable environment and environmental human rights defenders.

The draft being negotiated in Geneva contains some of these essential elements, which must be defended, but also offers significant potential for strengthening.

As negotiations enter the final stretch, our organisations urge States to actively support the development of a resolution which clearly recognises the vital contribution of environmental human rights defenders to sustainable development and the effective enjoyment of human rights and formulates concrete asks of the States, development finance institutions and companies with the power of safeguarding that contribution.

Sincerely, *signatures are collected on a rolling basis

  1. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  2. Amnesty International
  3. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia)
  5. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  6. Earth Justice
  7. Front Line Defenders
  8. Global Witness
  9. JASS (Just Associates)
  10. IM-Defensoras
  11. Christian Development Alternative (CDA)
  12. Nigerian Women Agro Allied Farmers Association
  13. Social Justice Connection
  14. Franciscans International
  15. Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos – Guatemala (UDEFEGUA)
  16. Geneva for Human Rights
  17. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  18. Réseau Ouest africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains/West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network
  19. Coordination des associations et des particuliers pour la liberté de conscience
  20. La’o Hamutuk
  21. Karapatan Philippines
  22. Human Rights House Foundation
  24. International Commission of Jurists
  25. Conectas Direitos Humanos
  26. World Movement for Democracy
  27. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
  28. Center for Civil Liberties
  29. Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
  30. Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
  31. International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA)
  32. Humanitaire Plus (Togo)
  33. Coalition Burkinabé des Défenseurs des Droits Humains
  34. AMARA
  35. Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC)
  36. Odhikar
  37. Freedom House
  38. Red Internacional Unión Latinoamericana de Mujeres – Red ULAM
  39. Rivers without Boundaries Mongolia
  40. Asian Legal Resource Centre
  42. Ligue Burundaise des droits de l’homme Iteka
  43. International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES)
  44. AVIPA association des victimes parents et amis du 28 septembre 2009 Guinée
  45. Porgera Red Wara (River) Women’s Association Incorporated (PRWWA INC.)
  46. KRuHA – people’s coalition for the right to water
  47. Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED)
  49. EarthRights International
  50. Dawei Probono Lawyer Network (DPLN)
  51. Africa Network for Enivironment and Economic Justice(ANEEJ)
  52. Partnership for Justice, Nigeria
  53. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
  54. Huridocs
  55. Steps Without Borders NGO
  56. Humanists International
  57. Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH)
  58. Labour,Health and Human Rights Development Centre
  59. Institute for Multi-Resource Development (IMdev)
  60. Not1More
  61. Patrons of Khuvsgul lake movement
  62. Liberia Coalition of Human Rights DefendersHuman Concern, Inc
  63. Brot für die Welt
  64. ARTICLE 19
  65. Peace Brigades International
  66. Metro Center Journalists Rights & Advocacy
  67. World Uyghur Congress
  69. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
  70. Latinamerikagrupperna
  71. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
  72. Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  73. SUDIA
  74. Synergia – 36/5000 Initiatives for Human Rights
  75. Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.
  76. Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
  77. Center for Women’s Global Leadership
  78. Transformative and Integrative Build Out For All
  79. Institute for Strategic & Development Studies
  80. Reseau de Femmes du mMlieu Rural Haitien
  81. East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
  82. FIFCJ
  83. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
  84. Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
  85. Zo Indigenous Forum
  86. MADRE
  87. FOKUS Forum for women and development
  88. Bougainville Women’s Federation
  89. Human Rights Council-Ethiopia
  90. Environment Defenders Advocacy
  91. Porgera Women’s Rights Watch
  92. Independent Human Rights Analyst and Strategy Advisor
  93. Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO)
  94. Community Resource Centre Foundation
  96. Equitable Cambodia
  97. Friends with Environment in Development
  98. Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB)
  99. Association For Promotion Sustainable development
  100. WoMin Afrcan Alliance
  101. Both ENDS
  102. Child Rights Connect
  104. Enda Lead Afrique Francophone
  105. Human Rights Law Centre
  106. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
  107. World Voices Uganda
  108. Africa Center for Policy Facilitation
  109. Estonian Forest Aid
  110. Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE)
  111. Collectif Camerounais des Organisations des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie (COCODHD)
  112. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  113. North-East Affected Area Development Society (NEADS)
  114. Sangsan Anakot Yawachon Development Project
  115. Forum Syd Sweden
  118. Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC)
  119. BankTrack
  120. CORE Coalition
  121. The Gaia Foundation
  122. Labour Behind the Label
  123. Bataris Formation Center
  124. Salva la Selva
  125. Observatoire d’etudes et d’appui a la responsabilite sociale et environnementale ( OEARSE )
  126. REd de Género y Medio Ambiente
  127. London Mining Network
  128. Abibiman Foundation
  129. Ecodesarollo
  130. The Kesho Trus
  131. Organisation mondiale contre la torture
  133. 11.11.11 – Koepel van de Vlaamse Noord-Zuidbeweging
  134. Center for Global Nonkilling
  135. Centro salvadoreño de Tecnología Apropiada
  136. Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CIDDH)
  137. Friends of the Earth NI
  138. Forest Peoples Programme
  139. Environmental Investigation Agency
  140. Fundación para el Desarrollo de Políticas Sustentables (FUNDEPS)
  141. Bank Information Center
  142. Africa development Interchange Network
  143. Voluntariados Intag
  144. Mangrove Action Project
  145. IUCN NL
  146. Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC)
  147. Amazon Watch
  148. HRM @Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan@
  149. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
  150. Asociación ambiental e cultural Petón do Lobo
  151. Asociación galega Cova Crea
  152. Amigos e Amigas dos Bosques “O Ouriol do Anllóns”
  153. Réseau Camerounais des Organisations des Droits de l’Homme (RECODH)
  154. CNCD-11.11.11
  155. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  156. Rainforest Foundation Norway
  157. Women Working Worldwide
  158. Greenpeace
  159. AMDH- Maroc
  160. In Difesa Di , per i diritti umani e chi li difende
  161. Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines
  162. The Fund for Global Human Rights
  163. People in Need
  164. ABColombia
  165. Al-Haq
  166. Denver Justice and Peace Committee
  167. Dominicans for justice and peace
  168. End Ecocide on Earth
  169. Zenü Network
  170. Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-determination and Liberation
  171. Jamaa Resource Initiatives
  172. National Indigenous Women Forum (NIWF)
  173. Bretton Woods Project
  174. Transparency International
  175. Business, Human Rights and the Environment Research Group (BHRE)
  176. GTANW
  177. Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur)
  178. Otros Mundos AC/Chiapas, México
  179. NGO Forum on ADB
  180. consfound
  181. Sri Lanka Nature Group
  182. Bella Foundation for Child and Maternal Care
  183. Accountability Counsel
  184. association Green Alternative
  185. Jong Groen
  186. Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO) – Uganda
  187. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  188. Womankind Worldwide
  189. Asociación Ecoloxista Verdegaia
  190. The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)
  191. Femmes et Droits Humains
  192. CIDSE – International family of Catholic social justice organisations
  193. ContraMINAcción
  194. Traidcraft Exchange
  195. Centre for Ecological Initiatives “Ecoaction”
  197. Oxfam




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