Dangerous Times for Human Rights and Environmental Defenders

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On a more serious note: last Saturday afternoon, while countries gathered at COP22, human rights and environmental defender Jeremy Abraham Barrios Lima was assassinated in Guatemala City. He worked at Guatemala’s legal environmental defence organisation managing sensitive information related to high-profile litigation for the protection of the environment.

On Climate Justice day, Jeremy’s murder is a tragic reminder of the deadly price that individuals around the world are paying for speaking up to defend their right to a healthy environment. Last year was the worst ever for human rights defenders, with on average three individuals being killed every week. Many others were threatened, intimidated, and continue to face death threats on a daily basis.

ECO reminds negotiators that it is the people working on the front lines of their communities around the world who make Parties’ work at COP22 possible. In turn, as Parties negotiate how to increase ambition and scale-up financing for adaptation and mitigation projects, they must protect the people putting their lives on the line.

Supporting climate justice means ensuring that people are safe. Countries need to take steps to ensure that they are not complicit in these acts of violence against human rights defenders. For example: 22 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean will meet next week to work towards making access rights binding law for countries throughout the region, in order to address the root causes of attacks against environmental and human rights defenders.

ECO calls on all countries to commit to ensuring that those who are working to protect their environment and their rights are not threatened, harassed, jailed or killed for doing so. This Climate Justice day, let us all remember and honour the brave environmental and human rights defenders who have given their lives to defend our planet.