United Nations condemns environment related violence

12.6.2018 - NAIROBI / BELÉM
Erik Solheim, UNEP's Executive Director
PHOTO: Johannes Jansson / Wikimedia Commons

A persecution of activists protecting the environment and local communities has raised the attention of the United Nations Environment Programme. The leading global authority on nature-related issues notes “with deep concern the escalation of violence against land rights activists”. The statement was released after a series of murders of Brazilian campaigners and defenders of landowners’ rights.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has expressed its severe indignation on the violent death of anti-palm oil fighter Nazildo dos Santos Brito. The incident occurred in the Brazilian state of Pará, where similar cases have taken place in recent months. In the statement, the Head of UNEP, Erik Solheim calls for a full, impartial and transparent investigation.

“Land rights which are guaranteed under the Brazilian constitution must be fulfilled by government and respected by business. The murder of indigenous people living on the frontlines of environmental protection is unacceptable,” says UNEP's statement on the case of Brazilian palm oil-related bloodshed. Also, the case might spread the word on environmental activists persecution in general.

Czech organization Arnika has been monitoring non-lethal persecution of activists in Europe and the post-soviet countries. Its chairman, Martin Skalsky welcomes the statement of the UN Environment: “The attention of an underlying institution such as the United Nations might mean some kind of shift for the better in the whole still overlooked problematics,” he hopes.

“About four people die every week only for protecting the nature or simply their homes. And there are no records on those who get beaten, intimidated or otherwise punished. We can only guess, how many times higher this number actually is,” Skalsky describes the ‘silent zone’ of the environment-related oppression.

Brasil dominates the chart of the countries with the highest number of killed environmental activists, followed by Philipines and Columbia. According to The Guardian and the Global Witnessin 2017 Brasil saw forty-six kills of such activists and forty-nine the year before.

Further reading:
25/04/2018 U.N. environment chief calls for full probe into Brazil land activists' murders (Reuters)
24/04/2018 Statement in response to the murder of environmental campaigner Nazildo dos Santos Brito (UNEP)
17/04/2018 Murdered land activist adds to rising death toll in Brazil's Amazon (The Guardian)

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