This month, I had the grim satisfaction of sharing an important news story: part of the Global Witness report on the plight of Land Defenders worldwide. (In short – it’s not good news: the problem is growing worse and spreading wider, with 200 people killed in 24 countries in 2016, up from 185 deaths in 16 countries in 2015.)
The story itself is unlikely to surprise those readers who’ve been involved in any environmental campaigns over the last five years; we’ve all been witness to – if not victims of – some form of backlash for daring to question reckless ‘development’ at the expense of communities’ rights and shared resources. But apart from the comfort I drew from telling this story, to and through a number of journalists, I drew strength from knowing the potential for real, long-term gains behind having issued this press release to draw more attention to the situation for Land Defenders in India, particularly.
The press release linked above is remarkable for another reason – and this is probably most obvious to and best appreciated by those working in civil society, those with an insider’s view of how hard it can often be – to get three organisations like Global Witness, Greenpeace, and Amnesty International to come together for common cause, and make a joint public statement, no less!!
In this case, the choice was so much simpler, because the links between the organisations and the campaigns are clear enough that I was merely, and quite literally, ‘instrumental’ in bringing the groups together. On the one hand, you have a grassroots campaigner like Rinchin, working with the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, a community right in the middle of an epic struggle to protect their land, their forests and their human rights. And then you have three global organisations with powerful motivations of their own:
- Global Witness, whose investigations boldly reveal that “globally, governments and business are failing in their duty to protect activists at risk… permitting a level of impunity that allows the vast majority of perpetrators to walk free, emboldening would-be assassins. Investors, including development banks, are fueling the violence by backing projects that harm the environment and trample human rights.”
- Amnesty International India, who have themselves “exposed countless instances when corporations exploit weak and poorly enforced domestic regulation with devastating effect on people and communities… [and highlighted how] few effective mechanisms at national or international level to prevent corporate human rights abuses or to hold companies to account. Amnesty is working to change this.”
- Greenpeace India, whose campaigns on forests, climate and energy have inevitably led to challenging the extraction, processing and burning of coal for energy, and the many disastrous consequences on public health, ecosystems and global climate change.
Bringing these groups together to support land defenders, and amplify their story beyond the usual media vehicles for such ‘liberal values’ stories, was immensely gratifying.
But the hope, that it has triggered a conversation that will see this collaboration continue, is even more so. #StrongerTogether, after all!