Human rights and environmental defenders at risk: the case of Ecuador

25 Jun, 2021 | Press Releases

Human rights and environmental defenders in Ecuador are at risk according to a new report published the Alianza por los Derechos Humanos (a coalition of human rights organisations working in the country). The report mapped 22 cases of threats, abuses or assassinations involving 449 defenders in the last years, many of which are linked to extractive activities such as: mining, fossil fuels extraction, agro-industries, use of water sources.

It should be noted that the case of Ecuador is similar to that of most countries in the Amazon basin and in Latin America in general, the most challenging and dangerous region for environmental defenders in the world.

As highlighted in the report, NPWJ stresses the importance of ensuring the ability of environmental defenders to undertake their work effectively, efficiently and safely, and thus free of threats or retaliation practices. They play an invaluable role to increase understanding and awareness of sustainable development challenges and to protect biodiversity from the harmful effects of activities such as deforestation, fires, land-grabbing. The damage to ecosystems such as the Amazon is not being done by accident: much of the devastation is a result of deliberate choices and policies that can be reversed through shining a light on them.

NPWJ underlines that institutional efforts at national, regional and international level should aim at the establishment of appropriate mechanisms of protection to guarantee that defenders can exercise their rights; the promotion and the recognition of the role of defenders; ensuring accountability through prompt investigations for cases of abuses against defenders. Also very important is the ratification and implementation of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters. The so-called Escazù Agreement is the first regional environmental agreement in Latin America and the Caribbean that has officially entered into force after the ratification of 12 countries on 22 April 2021. However, in the Amazon basin, it has only been ratified by Ecuador, Bolivia and Guyana. 

Through its campaign against deforestation in the Amazon, launched in 2019 with the support of the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation and local partners, NPWJ is at the forefront in the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and against the impunity for ecocide and environmental damage in the region. One of the main objectives of the campaign is to raise awareness about the effects of climate crimes such as land grabbing, deforestation or water pollution as well as to promote accountability’s venues for holding those responsible for crimes against nature and its defenders accountable. This should be a priority on the agenda of all those who recognize the importance of this forest for the ecological balance of the planet and for the preservation of native peoples, flora and fauna, heritage of humanity.