African Environmental Defenders play an important role in protecting their lands and ecosystems from unsustainable industrial development, logging and extractive projects. But, the nature of their work can expose them to significant risks. Throughout the world, there are ever-increasing incidents of attacks against environmental defenders.
The African Environmental Defenders Initiative was instituted by Natural Justice on Human Rights Day, 2019. The Initiatives overall objective is to enhance respect for the work of African Environmental Defenders and advocate for and secure their human rights. The Initiative aims to minimise or manage the risks faced by Defenders in Africa by offering support to enhance their resilience in terms of protection against threats.
Through the Initiative, Natural Justice established the African Environmental Defenders Fund. This is a joint programme by Natural Justice and the various partners which provides emergency funding to land and environmental Defenders based in Africa whose lives are under threat due to their activism or actions. The website of the Fund can be accessed here: https://envirodefenders.africa/
Partners to the fund include the International Land Coalition Africa, ICCA Consortium, VOICE, Pan-African Climate Justice Activists (PACJA), Oxfam Novib, FEMNET, and African Youth Commission.
Other activities under the Initiative include:
- Legal empowerment of Defenders to know and use the law to assert their rights.
- Legal and litigation support to Defenders through the African Environmental Lawyers Network.
- Provision of training to Defenders, including digital and physical security training, as well the provision of psycho-social support.
- Increasing the awareness of African Defenders on an international level.
- Local, national and regional advocacy for the protection of Defenders.
- Capacity-development and support to Defenders through various networks.
- Participation in various Defender-focused networks, including the Defending Land and Environmental Defenders Coalition.