Defend the defenders of the planet, UN rights chief urges

“Defending the setting goes hand-in-hand with defending the rights of those that defend it,” she told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which is holding its annual month-long session. 

Risks of talking out 

Ms. Bachelet revealed how talking out and standing up for environmental rights can come at huge price as activists have been killed or subjected to abuse, threats and harassment.   

“At specific danger are individuals who converse out in opposition to deforestation, extractives, lack of cultural heritage or id, or giant scale-agribusinesses and growth tasks – together with these meant to provide clear vitality, similar to mega dams,” she mentioned. 

Many environmental human rights defenders are additionally indigenous peoples, or members of native communities or minority teams – or these representing them.   

Berta Caceres, an environmental activist from Honduras, was assassinated in March 2016. She was recognized posthumously as a UN Champion of the Earth laureate for her tireless campaign for the rights of indigenous people.

© UNEP

Berta Caceres, an environmental activist from Honduras, was assassinated in March 2016. She was acknowledged posthumously as a UN Champion of the Earth laureate for her tireless marketing campaign for the rights of indigenous folks.

Guarantee accountability 

She mentioned total communities could face threats and intimidation when somebody speaks out on their behalf. 

Ms. Bachelet underlined that States have an obligation to respect and shield the rights of environmental human rights defenders, and the communities they signify.  Authorities should additionally forestall and guarantee accountability for assaults. 

These actions are according to a Council decision adopted final yr which upholds the right to a healthy environment, she mentioned. 

Obligation to manage 

“As well as, it’s important that States successfully regulate companies and maintain them accountable for human rights violations,” she mentioned, whereas companies even have an identical responsibility, as outlined within the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Ms. Bachelet suggested that previous to endeavor any local weather venture, each governments and companies should perform human rights danger assessments.  

“If indigenous peoples’ rights are prone to being adversely affected by such tasks, it’s essential that their free, prior and knowledgeable consent is obtained,” she mentioned. 

Moreover, the rights to data, participation and justice are additionally protected below worldwide human rights regulation, and additional stipulated in environmental accords. 

When these rights are upheld, “each the earth and the individuals who defend it are higher protected”, mentioned Ms. Bachelet. 

Women of the “Amigos de lago” association, that fights for the rights of the lake Atítlan, participate in a reed weaving workshop in Guatemala.

© UNICEF/Patricia Willocq

Ladies of the “Amigos de lago” affiliation, that fights for the rights of the lake Atítlan, take part in a reed weaving workshop in Guatemala.

UN assist worldwide 

The UN rights chief additionally reported on a number of the international work of her workers. 

“All world wide, my Workplace is dedicated to supporting States, companies and environmental human rights defenders in all of their efforts to guard our planet,” she mentioned. 

For instance, over 200 human rights defenders within the Pacific area have been skilled to assist enhance sustainable growth, enterprise and human rights within the context of local weather change.  

In Southeast Asia, OHCHR is monitoring instances of harassment, arrest, killings and disappearances of environmental human rights defenders, whereas working with governments in direction of ending punitive measures levelled in opposition to activists. 

In the meantime, workers in Mexico and Kenya are supporting environmental human rights defenders and their networks.  

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