New agreement UNEP & OHCHR aims to better protect environmental human rights defenders

August 19, 2019

UN Colombia – A wide range of human rights activists have been targeted in Colombia, especially those living in rural areas. Human and environmental rights campaigners are one focus of a new UNEP/OHCHR agreement.

On 16 August 2019 the UN environment agency (UNEP) and the UN human rights office (OHCHR) signed a landmark new agreement aimed at better protecting vulnerable human and environmental rights defenders and their families, while increasing protection for people and the places where they live, across the world.  The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will strengthen cooperation with OHCHR, as threats to individuals and communities defending their environmental and land rights intensify. Reports suggest that an average of more than three rights defenders were killed every week last year.

“A healthy environment is vital to fulfilling our aspiration to ensure people everywhere live a life of dignity”, said UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen. “We must curb the emerging trend of intimidation and criminalisation of land and environmental defenders, and the use of anti-protest and anti-terrorism laws to criminalise the exercise of rights that should be constitutionally protected.”  “UNEP and the UN Human Rights Office are committed to bringing environmental protection closer to the people by assisting state and non-state actors to promote, protect and respect environmental and human rights. In doing so, we will move towards a more sustainable and just planet,” she added.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said: “Our planet is being recklessly destroyed, and we urgently need stronger global partnerships to take action to save it…We call on leaders and governments to recognise that climate change and environmental degradation severely undermine the human rights of their people, particularly those in vulnerable situations – including the generations of tomorrow.” 

A key part of the new protection agreement is to monitor threats to environmental human rights defenders more closely, develop better defenders’ networks, urge more effective accountability for perpetrators of violence and intimidation, and promote “meaningful and informed participation by defenders and civil society, in environmental decision-making.

Ms. Bachelet said every State needed to be encouraged “to develop and enforce national legal frameworks which uphold the clear linkages between a healthy environment and the ability to enjoy all other human rights, including the rights to health, water, food – and even the right to life…We also strongly encourage greater recognition that the actions and advocacy of environmental human rights defenders are deeply beneficial to all societies.”

[see also the 2014 post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/11/binding-un-treaty-needed-for-protection-of-environmental-human-rights-defenders/%5D

https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/08/1044361

One Response to “New agreement UNEP & OHCHR aims to better protect environmental human rights defenders”


  1. […] Last month, the Office signed a strengthened partnership with the UN Environment Programme. This will include stepping up our cooperation to protect environmental human rights defenders at headquarters and in specific country and regional presences. It will ensure that we work within the UN system to ensure consistency and coherence across environmental and human rights actions. It will increase our support for national implementation of human rights-based environmental policies, including through the work of national human rights institutions. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/19/new-agreement-unep-ohchr-aims-to-better-protect-environ…%5D […]


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