Attacks on defenders in a time of ecological crisis
Threats and attacks on environmental and human rights defenders from indigenous and local communities are increasing, while these defenders are trying to protect their lands, territories and forests. This comes at a time when the world needs to deal with effects from dramatic species losses and the increasingly catastrophic effects of the climate crisis.
How we can address the growing threats of violence and criminalisation of indigenous peoples and environmental rights defenders?
This weekend, environmental and human rights defenders are speaking at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn to look at how we can address the growing threats of violence and criminalisation of indigenous peoples and defenders as they fight for the survival of their forests, territories and communities.
Representatives of indigenous and forest-dependent peoples will speak directly to the threats they face in defending their lands from encroachment. Representatives of UN agencies as well as private-sector speakers will reflect on measures proposed or already being taken to address threats against indigenous and forest-dependent peoples, and how to understand and fill remaining gaps.
Speakers will discuss root causes of these threats, including exclusionary conservation and the expansion of agribusinesses. Concerns with these threats were highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, in 2016 when he raised the alarm in a special report concerning growing violence against environmental and human rights defenders.
The worrying trend of attacks against – and at times, criminalisation of – indigenous and environmental human rights defenders has also been documented by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz.
Speakers available for interview in Bonn:
Indigenous representatives and Afro-descendant community representatives (speaker bios below)
- Diel Mochire Mwenge, Democratic Republic of Congo
- Geovaldis Gonzalez Jimenez, Colombia
- Alba Rocio Rueda Parra, Colombia
- Gladson Dungdung, India
- Father Anselmus Amo, Indonesia
- Johannes Refisch, Kenya
To arrange an interview, contact: Tom Dixon, Forest Peoples Programme: m: +44 7876 397915 e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos available on request
Diel Mochire Mwenge, Democratic Republic of the Congo
With more than 15 years of experience in indigenous and minority issues, Diel’s areas of expertise are the rights of indigenous peoples on lands and territories, forests and biodiversity. He is the focal point for the ‘Initiative Programme for the Development of the Pygme’, one of the largest indigenous forest communities in Central Africa. Diel is a technical advisor for the national network of indigenous peoples of the Central African Region (ANAPAC), and a member of the Board of Directors of the CBD Alliance.
Geovaldis González Jiménez, Colombia
From: Alta Montaña, Montes de Maria, in the Caribbean region of Colombia, Geovaldis is a local peasant leader and environmental defender.
Montes de Maria was heavily affected by the armed conflict, and there are various mining and agroindustrial operations in this region.
Geovaldis has become the spokesperson for Organisations of Displaced, Ethnic and Rural Peoples. He belongs to the Permanent Bureau for the Rights to Water, and to the Rural and Ethnic Commission for the Monitoring of Collective Reparation Processes for communities who suffered during the armed conflict.
He was a key leader of the peaceful community march which travelled from Montes de Maria to Bogota in 2018 to defend the water and territory of the rural and indigenous communities. There was a particular focus on the conflicts related to the districts which span the watersheds for local communities, as well as for those affected by palm oil, pineapple and timber plantations.
Alba Rocio Rueda Parra, Colombia
Community leader from the Collective Territory of Pedeguita and Mancilla in Colombia.
Rocio has worked for the defence of life and territory, not only in the river basin which forms part of the collective territory, but also in the sister basin of Curbarado.
She is a woman who stands out for being creative in her non-violent resistence of her territory through poetry, song and the planting of seeds. She has undertaken organisational processes with women to support the internal strengthening of Humanitarian and Biodiversity Zones, working to protect life and diversity, and conserving their territories in an integral way.
Gladson Dungdung, Jharkhand, India
Activist, researcher and writer from the Kharia Adivasi community in Jharkhand (India).
Gladson’s family was displaced for an irrigation project built at Chhinda River in Simdega district in 1980. His parents were brutally killed in June 1990 while they were going to attend the Simdega court in a land related dispute of a family in the village.
Consequently, he has had to undergo a long struggle for survival. However, he has attained a post-graduate Diploma in Human Rights from the Indian Institute of Human Rights, New Delhi.
Father Anselmus Amo, Papua, Indonesia
Director of the Office for Justice and Peace of Archdiocese of Merauke (SKP KAMe), West Papua
Director of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation of Sacred Heart Missionary Congregation, Indonesia Province in Jakarta (2009 to 2012)
The main issue facing his office is indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands and forest in Archdiocese of Merauke, covering three districts: Merauke, Mappi, and Boven Digoel
Quotes from Father Anselmus Amo
“Human rights defenders are those who speak louder than others about human rights violations in the field, including villagers, governments, heads of clans, and women.”
“Often, human rights defenders have faced corporations backed by soldiers and the police, so they have suffered psychological stress because they have no access to advocate their problems. They have also suffered by having to face those who gave their lands to the corporations and have been threatened with ‘dark magic’.”
“Human rights defenders often live in very remote areas, and as a result are isolated from access to communication with the outside world. They have been able to come to our office to share their problems or situations.”
“To help this situation, we need training for human rights defenders in order to prepare them to tackle their situations – techniques for documenting cases, training in personal security and negotiating would be very useful.”
UN Environment – Johannes Refisch
Johannes leads the secretariat for the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), based at the United Nations Environment headquarters in Nairobi.
He is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Primate Specialist Group and the IUCN Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group.