If we want to avert a climate disaster and deliver real climate justice, governments and businesses must protect Land and Environmental Defenders and ensure their voices are heard.
Who can be a Defender?
Land and Environmental Defenders (or Defenders for short) are ordinary people trying to peacefully protect their homes, livelihoods and the health of our planet. They take a stand against the unjust, discriminatory, corrupt or damaging exploitation of natural resources or the natural environment. Anyone, in any part of the world – from an individual protesting for climate justice, to a community taking local action to stop a polluting mining operation in their area, or state employees tracking illegal logging – can be a Defender.
The term is an overarching one that covers a disparate group of people whose individual actions serve to benefit the environment, even if that may not be their primary focus. Defenders often live in communities whose land, health and livelihoods are threatened by the operations of mining, logging or agribusiness companies. Others will be defending our biodiverse environment, whilst some will be supporting these community efforts through their work – as human rights or environmental lawyers, politicians, park rangers, journalists, or members of campaigns or civil society organisations.
What do Defenders do?
The tactics and strategies used by Defenders vary from group to group and person to person. However, a common thread that unites them all: they all speak out against the harm done to people or the planet through the exploitation of land and natural resources by businesses and governments for profit. This could be through awareness-raising and protest, peaceful direct action, filing legal complaints, or other ways of speaking out.
Some examples include:
- Berta Cáceres, who through protest, community organising, and filing complaints with government authorities drew attention to the ways a planned hydropower project in Honduras would damage a local river and violate the rights and threaten the livelihoods of Indigenous people who lived nearby.
- Ouch Leng, who along with other members of the Prey Lang Community Network monitors the protected Prey Lang Forest wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia, reporting instances of illegal logging and forest clearance.
- The Waorani indigenous community in Ecuador, who won a landmark legal ruling in 2019 to prevent the Ecuadorian government selling off their land for oil and gas exploration.
You can find many other examples of the incredible work Defenders do in our Defenders annual reports.
How effective are Defenders in fighting climate change?
The role of Defenders, and specially those part of Indigenous communities, is often overlooked when governments and international organisations discuss potential solutions to the climate crisis. However, all the evidence suggests that they are incredibly effective at what they do.
In 2019, the United Nations formally recognised the role of Defenders in environmental protection, and a recent global study showed that in 11% of environmental conflicts, Defenders contributed to halting environmentally destructive projects.
A significant number of Defenders are Indigenous People, who play an outsized role in protecting the environment. While they occupy around a quarter of the Earth’s land, they are responsible for 35% of terrestrial areas with very low human impacts, helping maintain 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Indigenous lands also store hundreds of gigatons of carbon.
Defenders often rely on their local environment for their livelihoods, so they manage it in a sustainable way for future generations. Unfortunately, this frequently brings them into conflict with global supply chains which aren’t interested in environmental preservation.
Why is it so dangerous to be a Defender?
The extractive business models of destructive industries like mining, logging and large-scale agriculture come into direct conflict with the ways in which Defenders live their lives. In too many countries, rich in natural resources and biodiversity, corporations are operating with almost complete impunity – safe in the knowledge that the state will look the other way and prioritise short-term profits rather than protect the rights of local communities.
In their pursuit of profit, these industries may begin by intimidating communities to give up their land, or collaborating with state officials to take it from them. Where people object, companies often back up their demands with threats, intimidation, legal crackdowns or outright violence – using company security guards, state security forces, or hired assassins.
On average, four Defenders have been killed every week since December 2015 – the month the Paris Climate Agreement was signed – with countless more targeted with non-lethal violence or criminalised as a result of their peaceful activities. All too often, there is no accountability for the people who attack them, further reinforcing the culture of impunity and paving the way for future violence.
What can we do to stop attacks against Defenders?
There are ways to reduce the fear and violence faced by Defenders in carrying out their work:
We must support Defenders by raising awareness of the threats they face and making the case for specific laws and policies to protect them.
We must tackle the root causes of these attacks. Violence often occurs when people’s rights to their land and natural resources are weak, undocumented or poorly enforced, while laws empower companies to exploit them with impunity.
To combat this, policymakers must strengthen land rights and environmental safeguards, and protect defenders by enforcing them. They must pass regulations that impose accountability on global supply chain companies dominating the international trade and investments, forcing them to respect the right of communities to give or withhold their free, prior and informed consent regarding the use of their land and natural resources.
And we need to ensure accountability by bringing those responsible for attacks on Defenders to justice, and enabling those who suffer as a result of a company’s actions to seek remedy and reparations for the damage caused.
Ending the culture of impunity is vital to deterring future attacks.
Original Source: Globalwitness.org
Leaders adamant on ending charcoal trade
The authorities of Paibona Sub-county in Gulu District have blamed political leaders for promoting massive tree cutting for commercial charcoal production.
Mr Joseph Otim, the National Forestry Authority (NFA) sector manager, in an interview on Friday, said local leaders at sub-county and district levels connive with charcoal dealers in the guise of raising revenue.
“One of the biggest challenges in forest governance in this country is that the people who should be taking action are relaxed. The ones in office, the foresters, and the leaders at all levels view charcoal trade as a lucrative business. So everyone looks at what goes into their pockets, at the expense of conservations,” Mr Otim said.
He said some of the forest officials have been targeted and threatened by such leaders, especially whenever they impound forest products.
“Another challenge is the people who are highly placed and connected in the security organs who issue threats,” Mr Otim added.
During a field assessment by the district authorities to map deforestation in the area last week, heaps of cut trees being burnt for charcoal were found but no dealers found on site.
But in Akor and Ayweri villages that have chunks of deforested land, there are 193 registered commercial charcoal dealers. Some of these dealers were found on site and have been asked to abandon the trade. For fear of prosecution, some of the dealers withheld their identities. They, however, told Daily Monitor that they cannot abandon charcoal business because it is their only source of livelihood.
Mr Jackson Ayoli, the chairperson of Paibona Sub-county, however, said leaders cannot fight commercial charcoal burning because it is a major source of revenue.
He noted that the sub-county collected Shs3 million in the Financial year 2021/2021 from taxing charcoal and other forest products. From the September to November 2022 quarter, Mr Ayoli said the sub-county collected Shs3.1 million from forest-related products.
“Forest products are one of the major sources of local revenue in this sub county and without it, paying the allowances of the sub-county councillors and other staff would be a huge challenge,” Mr Ayoli said.
The Sub-county Chief, Mr David Kercan, said Paibona projected to collect Shs 16 million in local revenue in the last Financial Year (2021/2022). Local revenue sources include local service tax, trading licenses, and operations from Non-Governmental Organisations. “However, we realised only 67 percent of local revenue projections, translating to Shs 10,720,000 out of Shs16 million,” he said.
Ms Betty Aol Ocan, the Gulu City Woman Member of Parliament, said local governments should be innovative and find other sources of revenues.
The Global Forest Watch says Gulu District lost 988 hectares to illegal logging and charcoal burning in 2021—an equivalent to 440,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
It is also estimated that between 2001 and 2021, Gulu lost 38,700 hectares of tree cover.
Source: Daily Monitor
EACOP Partners With Surveyors Body as Pipeline Land Acquisition Nears Completion.
The East African Crude Oil pipeline Company (EACOP) Ltd on Wednesday entered a partnership with the Institute of Surveyors of Uganda (ISU) which will see them work together to among others bolster local capacities ahead of the construction of the regional oil pipeline.
Through this arrangement, USU undertook to conduct training of EACOP staff and offering internship programs for university students from universities of Makerere, Ndejje and Kyambogo.
The initiative will provide a three-months training and internship placement for selected participating university students twice a year during the breaks between semesters.
The Institute of surveyors of Uganda (ISU) has over 2200 members that brings together land surveying, quantity, surveying, valuation surveying, mining, and hydrological surveying professionals whose mandate is to promote professional surveying practices that can enhance the quality of services under the various surveying disciplines in Uganda.
Speaking during the MOU signing ceremony held in Kampala today, EACOP Managing Director Martin Tiffen said while they are currently employing several surveyors registered with ISU, they needed a platform for a stronger collaboration.
The partnership is hoped local content and capacity building in the oil sector in Uganda
“We have been consumers of services of different kinds of surveyors…but this agreement is a way for some of our staff to improve on their professional qualifications” he said“It also gives us a mechanism to receive students who need (internship) positioning into our organization.”
On his part, Dr. Nathan Kabwami, the President Institute of Surveyors echoed the significance of commitment of EACOP to the partnership with the Institute of Surveyors of Uganda to facilitate the delivery of quality training to future surveyors that will work on this incredible project.
“I thank EACOP for this commendable skilling initiative and urge all University students who meet the criteria for this program and are interested in being part of the transformation of Uganda’s oil and gas industry to embrace it.” He said.
Meanwhile, Mr Tiffen revealed that EACOP is progressing well with the process of acquiring land for the pipeline.
Since February last year when the oil Final Investment Decision was signed, Tiffen says over three quarters of project affected persons (PAPs) have been paid off.
There is a total of 3648 PAPs spread across 170 villages where the oil pipeline will pass through inside Uganda.
The EACOP MD also revealed that so far, construction of new houses for people for displaced families is nearly complete and that all 180 houses will be handed over to the owners early this year.
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