Day 1 | 20 September
Environmental Defenders as Levers of Change Supporting Climate Action and Responsible Business Practice
The triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss represents the single greatest human rights challenge of our era. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that climate change is affecting every region in the world, and at least 3.3 billion people are highly vulnerable to its impacts. In Asia and the Pacific, climate-related disasters severely affected more than 57 million people in 2021, with more than 18 million people in India alone being severely impacted by floods and cyclones. Persons in vulnerable situations may experience heightened exposure and vulnerability to climate-induced human rights harms. People who are disproportionately at risk from the adverse impacts of climate change and environmental harm may include indigenous peoples, local communities, peasants, migrants, children, women, persons with disabilities, people living in small island developing States and least developed countries, persons living in conditions of water scarcity, desertification, land degradation and drought, and others in vulnerable situations who are at risk of being left behind.
Land and environmental defenders play a vital role as levers of change in protecting these climate-critical forests and ecosystems and standing up for communities and individuals who are disproportionately impacted by environmental harm. For many years, land and environmental defenders have been at the front line defending against the causes and impacts of the climate, pollution and biodiversity crisis. They have been advocates for sustainable practices and rights based development. Environmental defenders also play a vital and legitimate role holding duty bearers responsible for unsustainable practices which have resulted in violations of all peoples right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
Many environmental human rights defenders raise concerns about large development projects that affect access to land and livelihoods, and the rights of indigenous peoples and/or local communities. Environmental defenders can be key partners for business, government and other development partners to support rights based and just transition and a sustainable future. Despite their important role in supporting sustainable development, their bravery and leadership, people working to protect the planet, often risk with their own lives for their advocacy and actions. In 2020, Global witness recorded 227 murdered land and environmental defenders. Business and human rights resources center also published data which demonstrates that among the 615 attacks they tracked in 2021, nearly 70% were against climate, land and environmental human rights defenders.
The UNGPs recognize the critical role of human rights defenders as part of the business and human rights ecosystem. The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights recently released guidance on ensuring respect for human rights defenders. The guidance unpacks for States and business the normative and practical implications of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in relation to protecting and respecting the vital work of human rights defenders.
The key objectives of this session are to:
Identify Increase understanding of participants on the crucial role and contributions of EHRDs in supporting responsible business practice, climate actions and just transition.
Raising awareness of the situation of EHRDs in the region and discuss concrete recommendations on actions needed to partner with, support, promote and protect EHRDs.
Sharing information concerning good practices, tools and initiatives to provide a positive, safe and enabling environment in which EHRDs can operate free from violence, threats, hindrance and insecurity.
Panelists will reflect on the following questions:
What is the role of EHRDs in supporting climate action and environmental protection?
What are the trends of challenges and drivers of attacks against human rights defenders working in the area of climate and environment protection?
What are the key recommendations of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights guidance to ensure respect for human rights defenders and how business entities integrate them in their operation?