resource portal for environmental human rights defenders
Between 2014 and 2015, the Universal Rights Group (URG), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, organised two regional consultations - in Geneva and Bangkok - during which environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) from the African, Asian and European regions came together to provide testimonies and to explain the nature of EHRDs’ work and the challenges they face.
During those consultations, EHRDs offered a number of ideas as to how the UN and international civil society could help strengthen support and protection, including:
Help to create safe and collaborative platforms where EHRDs from different regions can meet, share information and strategies, and work together to jointly build capacity.
Provide technical and capacity-building support to help EHRDs engage with, and seek help from, the UN human rights protection system – for example by facilitating access to the UN communications/petition systems.
Help to create a platform where EHRDs can access and share case studies to show the impact of their work. As well as allowing exchanges of information about good practices, such case studies would also help counter the claim that EHRDs are ‘anti-development.’ For example, some case studies could address situations where local consultations and wide participation in decision-making led to better and more sustainable projects.
Providing easy access to useful information and contacts such as: lists of organisations and initiatives that can help EHRDs; legal resources, including access to networks of lawyers with relevant expertise; document templates such as sample legal documents or petitions to UN Special Procedures; contact information for other EHRDs and relevant associations in each region; contact information for relevant parts of the UN and regional human rights organisations; relevant UN conventions, declarations, reports and resolutions; scientific networks and data; and tips and practical advice.
To capture all of these ideas, it was suggested that international civil society, together with relevant parts of the UN, including the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, and UNEP, should come together to develop a single one-stop-shop web portal that would provide all of the above – i.e. information, resources, contacts and advice.
Pursuant to that suggestion, URG, Global Witness, N1M and other NGOs, in collaboration with the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment and Wake Forest University Law School, have come together to design, build and launch such a portal: environment-rights.org.
The development of the environment-rights.org portal was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain.
The portal is open for contributions from all interested and supportive stakeholders (UN experts, NGOs, academics, and HRDs themselves). It is also a ‘living’ platform that we hope will be regularly updated and expanded. Our common goal is to provide a resource that is genuinely useful for EHRDs, and will make a small contribution to supporting their work and defending their rights.