“Environmental protection is a critical pillar in ensuring that everyone in Europe can fully enjoy human rights,” the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, said today upon the release of a report on a round-table with environmental human rights defenders from across Europe she hosted in December 2020. “Those working to prevent environmental degradation are also contributing to protecting our most basic rights.”
Reflecting the interventions of the participants in the round-table, the report addresses the major trends in the area of environmental human rights, working methods and good practices for activists, the challenges faced by environmental human rights defenders, and areas where the Commissioner’s action would be most beneficial. Some of the recurring themes that emerged throughout the discussion included the prospects and the added value of human rights litigation for environmental protection, the lingering negative impact of economic arguments on action to prevent environmental degradation, and the need for more transparency and access to information.
Numerous participants described how people bringing truth to light on environmental issues or peacefully opposing damaging projects are suffering greatly, facing attacks on all fronts, including on their reputation and on their physical integrity. “This underscores the extent to which defending the defenders is a moral and political imperative across Europe,” added the Commissioner.
The examples shared during the round-table regarding the role of local stakeholders, building coalitions, and complementing different campaign approaches, were important for other participants and may be of interest to human rights defenders in Europe more broadly.