HRC 51st. Session - Side Event - Protecting the frontline: Good practices for supporting environmental human rights defenders (Norway 5.10.2022)

HRC51 Side Event : Protecting the frontline: Good practices for supporting environmental human rights defenders. 

Statement delivered by Ambassador Tine Mørch Smith, Permanent Representative of Norway

5 October 2022

Excellencies, Colleagues, Friends,

Thanks to Universal Rights Group, UNEP, Geneva Environment Network and OHCHR for organising this event that focuses on a topic which is high on Norway’s human rights agenda.

When Norway put forward resolution 40/11 in 2019, it was in recognition that environmental human rights defenders, including human rights defenders working on land rights and indigenous rights, were among those most exposed to threats, violence, and killings.

It is deeply concerning to see that this trend has continued despite the unanimous support for the resolution.  

In 2021, according to Front Line Defenders, environmental defenders represented more than half of all the human rights defenders that were killed. Environmental defenders are also among the most affected by other types of threats and harassment, including detention and persecution. According to Global Witness’ annual report released last week, over the last decade, more than 1,700 defenders have been killed trying to protect their land and resources. That is an average of one defender killed approximately every two days over ten years.

Resolution 40/11 contributed to increasing the awareness and recognition of this group and made visible the value of the protection mechanisms that exist. It also helped strengthening the connections between environmental and human rights organisations.

We know that, unfortunately, a lot of work remains. There is a significant need for effective measures for this group of people.

Faced with the triple environmental crisis – climate change, pollution and a collapse of biodiversity – environmental defenders are essential agents of change.

We reiterate again Norway’s full support for environmental human rights defenders around the world. We welcome the new report on good practices to support environmental defenders which we will hear more about today. We look forward to hearing from human rights defenders about what works, and how we can build on these lessons in our efforts.

We also welcome the establishment of a special rapporteur under the Aarhus Convention, the UNs first special rapporteur for environmental defenders, and the appointment of Michel Forst.

We will continue working to strengthen the protection, and to contribute to continued attention to the challenges and threats that environmental human rights defenders meet.

Thank you.

Palais des Nations, room XXV (hybrid).