UNPFII: Forest Defenders: New Threats and New Responses

Statement by Ambassador Mona Juul at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues side-event on Forest Defenders, 23 April 2019.

| Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Thank you UNEP and the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, and everyone co-hosting this event. Thank you for all your contributions today. I am very pleased to be here in the presence of so many courageous women and men. 

One special word of thanks to our moderator, Mr. Alec Baldwin. Your sustained commitment to raising the profile of the fight to protect forests and the rights of indigenous people has been quite remarkable; it is deeply appreciated by all of us.

This topic is important to Norway both in our human rights policy and in international climate policy. Securing and protecting indigenous rights is fundamental to our International Climate and Forest Initiative, which aims to slow and reverse tropical forest loss.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the nexus between human rights, climate and biodiversity, we find the Indigenous Environmental Human Rights Defenders. They stand courageously at the forefront in the fight to safeguard remaining forests and other natural resources.

They fight not only for their own livelihoods, but also for the benefit of all of us. There is, at long last, increasing attention to the fact that many of them pay the highest price when standing up to timber loggers, wildlife poachers, drug traffickers, miners and plantation developers.

In fact, there has been an increase in violence and killings of environmental human rights defenders, documented by reports from both Global Witness and Special Rapporteur Ms. Tauli Corpuz.

Norway is honored to play a leading role in the work to strengthen the protection of human rights defenders in the UN. We have recently completed the negotiations of a resolution in the Human Rights Council focusing on environmental human rights defenders.

Violations and killings of environmental human rights defenders is a breach of human rights. To reverse the trend of violence, and to empower and protect environmental human rights defenders, we need to develop effective protection mechanisms in a consultative manner. Including both individual and collective aspects.

Included in the resolution just mentioned is a strong call for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles. This covers the responsibility of all business enterprises to respect the rights to life, liberty and security of person for environmental human rights defenders. Enjoying their freedom of expression and right to participate in public affairs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While Indigenous Peoples only make up a fraction of the world’s population, they manage a large part of the world’s remaining wild areas and biodiversity. 60 million people manage a third of the carbon stored in tropical forests.

Indigenous Peoples and their traditional knowledge are essential to have a fighting chance to limit climate change to less than two degrees. Environmental Human Rights Defenders are their best companions in this battle. Let us therefore recognize their rights, value their contributions and protect their security.

We are greatly encouraged to have partners like all of you, and look forward to implementing the body of work talked about today.

Thank you.