Deciding whether or not to allow an investor to use community lands and natural resources is one of the most important decisions a community can make. Namati and the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) have published two new guides to help communities prepare for interactions with investors and, if they so wish, negotiate fair, equitable contracts. These guides are the first of their kind.
BERTA CÁCERES, ASSASSINATED in her home in March 2016, was just one of hundreds of Latin American environmental activists attacked in recent years. At least 577 environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) were killed in Latin America between 2010 and 2015 – more than in any other region. In addition to violence, EHRDs suffer legal threats and harassment, severely impeding their work. Before Cáceres' murder, she faced trumped-up charges due to her opposition to hydroelectric dams on her indigenous community's territory.
“It is up to me to follow in the same footsteps as my father walked, so that they’ll give us back our land again.”
- Ramón Bedoya, Colombia
“The desire for justice and reparations for the fallen defenders, for their families, and above all that this never happens again—that is an energy that compels you to keep working.”
– Isela González, Mexico
“The owner of the plantation… should give back our land… It’s not just for our family but the rest of the people living in the area. My father offered his blood. He gave his life. We will continue.”
A CLASSIC RESPONSE from governments and businesses in recent time is not just to characterize legitimate grievances by Indigenous Peoples and local communities as anti- government, anti-development, and anti-investment. They are waging wars against Indigenous Peoples and individuals who are protecting the planet and its people by criminalizing their legitimate grievances and then threatening, arresting, intimidating, and imprisoning those who dare challenge this mode of development.
FRONT LINE DEFENDERS has documented 821 human rights defenders (HRDs) who have been killed in the four years since we started producing an annual global list in cooperation with national and international NGOs. Seventy-nine percent of this total came from six countries: Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the Philippines. The vast majority of these cases have never been properly investigated, and few of the perpetrators of the killings have been brought to justice.
Malcolm Childress visited Honduras in April as part of a fact-finding and speaking delegation sponsored by the US State Department.
On the northern coast of Honduras, palm forests give way to white sands, blue seas and one of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs. But, in a story that will be familiar to observers of land rights worldwide, that beauty has brought developers eager to build, and conflict around the ownership of land occupied and claimed by longstanding Garifuna communities.
The announcement of the winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize is an opportunity to celebrate activist leaders. But it is also a moment to recognize just how much courage their efforts (and those of a great many others) can demand.