Mar 11 2024
Past event

Championing recognition, participation and protection of environmental defenders through high-level collaboration and coordination: The Leaders Network for Environmental Activists and Defenders Initiative

LEAD: Championing recognition, participation and protection of environmental defenders through high-level collaboration and coordination

Environmental defenders are the driving force in advocating for urgent actions needed to address the triple planetary crisis, consistently leading reforms necessary to protect people (especially the most vulnerable) and planet. However, they are paying a heavy price. Global Witness reports that between 2015 – when the Paris Agreement was adopted – and December 2022, at least 1,390 environmental defenders were killed. This is just the tip of the iceberg of threats to environmental defenders, who are increasingly targeted with violence, harassment, and criminalisation, according to an Alliance for Land, Indigenous and Environmental Defenders (ALLIED) report.

Recently, there have been important positive steps at the multilateral level to improve recognition, protection and participation of environmental defenders, including through the establishment of regional environmental mechanisms (e.g., Aarhus Convention and Escazú Agreement), and the adoption of a resolution on environmental defenders by the UN Human Rights Council. However, many of these efforts remain disconnected from one another, while the integration of key protection standards in other multilateral environmental agreements is still lacking. Failure to ensure effective implementation of existing obligations and commitments , coupled with restrictive action at the national level, has led to escalating threats against defenders. It is therefore crucial that key stakeholders across various regions and sectors must come together to agree on action to protect defenders and ensure they are actively engaged in addressing the climate emergency.

We therefore propose to co-create a multilateral action-oriented initiative where leaders of governments, academia, media, multilateral institutions, and eventually the private sector, join in dialogue directly with environmental defenders on the frontlines of the crisis, and with civil society organisations that support them.

The proposed main objectives of the LEAD initiative are:

1. In climate, environment, and just energy transition spaces, increase global awareness of the challenges and threats faced by environmental defenders, and increase recognition of the important role of environmental defenders in responding to the triple planetary crisis.

2. Analyse and complement existing data on attacks of environmental defenders to enhance policy and decision-making related to the protection and participation of defenders and implementation of the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

3. Create a space for multi-stakeholder exchange of best practices and coordination of actions that can inform the design of global policy solutions and collaborative efforts to strengthen the protection of environmental defenders and promote their participation in decision-making. The proposed initiative is not aimed at creating a new mechanism, but would serve as a space to review and build on existing commitments through accelerated action.

Against this backdrop, the LEAD initiative will convene, on the margins of HRC55, an expert-level meeting with a cross-regional group of States, and representatives from civil society, United Nations entities, and environmental defenders themselves to discuss LEAD and evaluate the initiative’s next steps, including what Geneva’s role can and should be in LEAD. While the LEAD initiative will primarily focus on climate and environmental fora, Geneva-based stakeholders can and should play a key role in helping to mainstream human rights considerations.

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  • Mar 11th 2024
  • 8:30 - 9:45
  • By invitation only