December 10, 2018

Repression of Environmental Defenders is A Global Trend

Actions of Poland Against Civil Society Observer is Just One Example

Katowice, Poland:  A coalition of civil society groups used the UN Climate Conference to highlight a global trend in the repression of citizens who stand up for the environment, as well as the need for building solidarity between progressive social movements who are defending life and the rights of people and communities.

On the 70th anniversary of the UN Declaration of the Human Rights the representatives from across the world spoke of:

Current actions by Poland to prevent and deport civil society observers from the UN Climate Summit (COP24) and a global petition calling on the UN to rectify this. Svitlana Romanko, Eastern Europe Caucasus and Central Asia Coordinator at said:

“Poland has detained and deported 14 civil society observers. This is unacceptable repression from a UN summit host and new rules and procedures must be adopted to protect human rights. We are launching an open letter and petition to the Polish Government and the UN to demand this does not happen again and that the UN climate convention remains open to citizens everywhere.”

“70 years after the signing of the UN Declaration of Human Rights people like Nugzar Kokhriedze who is currently in the airport at Katowice, and our other colleagues who have been deported, need their human rights upheld more than ever.”

Repression of activists in India with the alliance of government and corporate interests – Vidya Dinker Indian Social Action Forum:

“The world’s largest democracy is in the hands of a government which is merely a mask for corporate interests. Activists, community leaders, lawyers, and journalists who expose and resist sinister efforts to privatize their land and water face unprecedented repression. People are incarcerated and then tortured, with sexual assault against women, all with the excuse of public security. The violence inflicted against our communities is done so by the same actors who inflict violence on our planet.”

The situation in Brazil with the new government – Maureen Santos from Grupo Carta de Belem:

“Brazil is the home of the Amazon and of many indigenous and traditional communities who protect and care for their territory and the biodiversity it contains. According to an international report, in 2017 Brazil was the country with the highest number of murders of human rights and environmental activists in the world. This could increase absurdly with the new political scenario. The retraction of the offer to host COP25 is symbolic of the increased power of the AgriBusiness lobby and the spread of climate change denier ideology.”

Threats to Indigenous and local resistance to fossil fuels and destructive development – Alberto Salomando, It Takes Root / Indigenous Environment Network:

“Global Witness have documented the assassinations of 2 environmental defenders a week, half of which are Indigenous Peoples. It is not just assassinations, but the intimidation of families, communities and civil society organizations opposed to destructive development.”

“In the United States, the Dakota Access Pipeline company hired military-style counterterrorism mercenaries to infiltrate the Defenders’ Oceti Sakowin Camp, conduct air and electronic surveillance of the Water Defenders and interfere with communications. All of these human rights concerns are directly implicated in these COPs. The same businesses participate in COP by promoting false solutions such as carbon markets and REDD+ that can only lead to more human rights abuses.”

On the necessity of building international solidarity in the face of a worrying geopolitical turn to authoritarianism – Brandon Wu, ActionAid International:

“The world’s elites won’t stop either the rising tides of nationalism and authoritarianism or the worsening climate breakdown so long as they can continue to profit from it. As long as climate breakdown carries apace, authoritarian politics will flourish. And as long as authoritarian politics dominate the world will not be able to rise to the challenge of climate change.”

“The yellow vests in France show that simple market fixes to climate change will fail. As a climate justice movement we have an alternative vision of international cooperation with real solutions to the climate crisis that are just and equitable for all. We are fighting to transform the wasteful and planet-destroying energy, food, and economic systems that fail to care for everyone’s needs. Another world is not only possible but absolutely necessary.”


Notes to editors:

  • A link to the global petition is available here.
  • A further event at the Climate Hub Civil Society Space (opposite the COP venue) will occur at 8pm Mon 10th of Dec with speakers including those who have been deported from Poland and the registered observer from Georgia who remains at Katowice airport (via video-link)
  • Further information and quotes from individuals detained or deported by Poland is available upon request.