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Human rights abuses are being perpetrated against environmental and community campaigners around the world. The full extent and severity of this situation has recently become clearer thanks to the committed work of groups like Global Witness, and by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. Friends of the Earth advocates for justice for those affected and works to raise awareness with the kind support of the European Union.
Why is this happening? Greater demand and competition for natural resources has led to an increase in land grabbing, resource exploitation and attempts to privatize community managed assets. Activists and journalists responding to these issues have suffered unlawful detention, threats, harassment and break-ins. Murders and disappearances are also alarmingly common. The Global Witness report A Hidden Crisis says that there was one death per week on average in the decade to 2012 . The perpetrators of these abuses regularly operate on behalf of national governments or transnational companies.
Information on these abuses is too sparse to say whether or not this trend is worsening. Reporting mechanisms have become more sophisticated and rights awareness has grown in much of the world, but understanding what is happening is still problematic. The scale of this issue is largely invisible as global monitoring remains very difficult: the relatively small numbers of incidents reported in Africa and Central Asia, for instance, is telling. Local, municipal, regional and even national governments have rewritten laws to give legitimacy to their heinous rights violations, providing legal cover for rights abuses.
Friends of the Earth member groups are continuing their work on this issue. Please check back regularly to see how you can spread the word and offer support.
The FoEI project 'Mobilising global protection for environmental and human rights defenders' has been funded with the support of the European Commission.