Defending territories and peoples’ collective rights

Injustices against defenders of territories, and violations of peoples’ collective rights and human rights, are committed daily around the world. 

The current political economic system, with its ever greater demand on and competition for natural resources, has led to an increase in land grabbing, exploitation of nature and attempts to privatise and control shared and community-managed assets. 

The peoples, communities, leaders, political subjects and communicators who defend their territories, lives and livelihoods are enduring unlawful detentions, threats, harassment and raids of their offices and homes. Murders, disappearances and torture are alarmingly common.

The perpetrators of these abuses typically operate on behalf of governments and/or transnational corporations, often with the support of State actors, including the police and military, or paramilitary forces and hired individuals/groups. An example is the murder of Honduran activist Berta Cáceres in March 2016. At all levels, transnational corporations and international financial institutions manipulate laws, to legitimise violations of peoples’ rights and land grabbing, assuring a legal cover and guarantee of impunity. 

Friends of the Earth International works to protect defenders of peoples’ rights, territories and communities, and to strengthen collective resistance to human and environmental rights violations, as laid out in the 2003 Cartagena Declaration.

Through our Internationalist Solidarity System (ISS) we ensure that defenders of territories and peoples’ rights, together with their communities and social movements, have the capacity to pursue a system change agenda, aimed at protecting the environment and securing collective rights. Through the ISS, we can respond rapidly to violations and mobilise internationalist support for threatened communities, according to their needs and wishes. We support national groups to prevent violations, and fight against corporate and State interests that are complicit in such crimes. We advocate for an internationally legally binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights.

Friends of the Earth International values the recent advances in the international recognition of individual human rights and collective rights. However, despite progress in creating legal frameworks to address rights, violations continue and are even increasing due to the current global model of production and consumption that is imposed by neoliberal economic globalisation. 

We promote the concepts of environmental rights and environmental justice, and work for the recognition of new rights:

  • The right to a sustainable livelihood
  • The right to a clean and healthy environment
  • The right to water
  • The right to food safety and security
  • Collective rights
  • The right to know
  • The right to decide
  • The right to resist
  • Rights for environmental refugees
  • The right to claim ecological debt
  • The right to environmental justice

This publication (and boxes below) explain the concepts behind these new rights, along with examples of human and environmental rights abuses experienced worldwide.