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Defining Moments of 2019: Defending environmental defenders

2 December 2019 at 3:02 pm

Activists protesting outside the High Court in Pietermaritzburg. (Image: groundWork)
Activists protesting outside the High Court in Pietermaritzburg. (Image: groundWork)

From today until 13 December 2019, we will be sharing with you some of the Centre for Environmental Rights’ defining moments of 2019.

First up is our work on human rights defenders working for environmental and social justice in mining-affected communities.

In April 2019, the Centre for Environmental Rights, with Human Rights WatchgroundWork and Earthjustice, launched a new joint report on the threats and violence facing environmental defenders in mining-affected communities: “We know our lives are in danger”: Environment of Fear in South Africa’s Mining-Affected Communities”. This report documented a local manifestation of a global increase in harassment, intimidation, and violence against defenders – with environmental defenders at particular risk.

CER presented the findings of this report to the United Nations Human Rights Council at an event convened by Civicus aimed at strengthening mechanisms to protect environmental defenders globally.

Since then and throughout the year, CER attorneys have worked with international partners to provide hands-on support to individual activists who have been threatened or attacked.

Last week, the Open Society Foundations announced the formation of a new fund to support human rights defenders in South Africa. “Over three years, the fund – known as The South African Human Rights Defenders Fund – will support advocates working on land, housing, and environmental rights, with a special emphasis on aiding women advocates who face threats and violence. The Fund will provide support services to activists—including legal representation, emergency relocation services; and physical, psychosocial, and medical support.” CER will participate in the advisory board of this fund.

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