Conflicts around natural resources are globally on the increase. In many countries, environmental defenders suffer severe threats and assaults. To counter these alarming developments, IUCN NL, Protection International, and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs will host a three-day event, to be held from 8 to 10 December in The Hague. “The aim is to identify measures that will improve the safety of environmental defenders”, says Tina Lain from IUCN NL.
Participants in the conference include safety experts and representatives from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its embassies across the globe. “Environmental rights defenders are often at great risk. The conference will contribute to empowering ordinary citizens through the development of security strategies that work in places where the state does not necessarily protect those who speak about their environment”, explains Arjan van der Waal from Protection International.
Representatives from local civil society organisations from eight countries will also be present to share their experiences. “They experience first hand how threatening the situation on the ground can be”, says Lain. “What’s more, they have a clear perspective on what interests are at stake and what is needed to improve the security situation.”
According to the report Deadly Environment by Global Witness, the number of deadly victims amongst environmentalists increased from 55 in 2009 to 147 in 2012. The 2013 figures are expected to be even higher. Lain: “This underlines the need to develop a joint response to this urgent issue, with all the parties present.”
In their home countries Bolivia, Brazil, Uganda, DR Congo, The Philippines and Indonesia, the delegates fight to protect natural areas and the local communities that depend on those areas for their survival. Lain: “Sadly, this is often undervalued. Instead, governments prefer short term profits from mining or logging deals. Negative impacts from these activities on the environment or local people is considered of minor importance.”