Coalition of environmental and human rights organizations calls on the Pope to protect environmental defenders

In a letter presented to Pope Francis this week, the organizations ask the Pope to be a patron for all environmental defenders who risk their lives by intimately caring about, and fighting for the preservation of nature, our common home.

The signatories are concerned with the increase in violence against environmental defenders. Every week, three people are killed because they stand up for nature. An even larger number faces threats, intimidation and physical violence. Indigenous groups are most vulnerable, since they often live in remote areas and their territory often lacks legal protection from the state.

The violence against environmental defenders often goes unpunished. The signatories fear the violence will only increase if not highly condemned at the highest level of international politics. Our warming climate and growing population mean that pressures on land and natural resources are set to increase, which means that without urgent intervention the numbers of deaths we’re seeing now will be dwarfed by those in the future. To improve the safety of environmental defenders, the coalition calls on the Pope to condemn violence against environmental defenders.

The coalition is composed of 76 environmental and human rights organizations from around the world. All of them are concerned with this rapidly growing crisis.

The letter was initiated by IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL). With its project ‘Defending environmental defenders’, supported by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, IUCN NL collaborates with Milieudefensie, Friends of the Earth International and Global Witness to improve the safety of environmental defenders in Colombia, Peru, DR Congo, Indonesia and The Philippines.

Read the letter to Pope Francis on the protection of environmental defenders here.

Beatrice Olivastri
CEO | Friends of the Earth Canada

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