Podcast on violence against environmental defenders and what can be done about it

Header photo: Environmental defenders © Victor Barro

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime presents a podcast series called ‘Faces of Assassination’ to bear witness to the victims of organized crime. Liliana Jauregui, senior expert environmental justice at IUCN NL, shares her expertise in the episode of October 22, which discusses the role of environmental defenders, why they are being targeted, what is being done right now to combat it, and what can be done to make further change going forward.

On a global scale, every week, four people are killed because they stand up for nature. Many more are  facing threats, violence and intimidation. ‘It is without a doubt that violence against environmental defenders is increasing,’ says Liliana Jauregui, senior expert environmental justice at IUCN NL. ‘But because not all violent incidents and murders are registered, the exact extent of the problem is difficult to pinpoint.’

For several years now, Global Witness has been recording how many environmental defenders are killed each year. In 2019, Global Witness registered 212 deaths with an average of four deaths a week. Still, this is most likely only the tip of the iceberg: many countries provide unreliable information due to corruption. In addition, local deaths in remote areas are often not registered.

Podcast on environmental defenders

The podcast, presented by Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, features Rachel Cox (Global Witness), Billy Kyte (former campaigner with Global Witness), Liliana Jauregui (IUCN NL), Judy Pasimio (Coordinator of LILAK – Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights) and Maiara Folly (founder of Plataforma CIPÓ in Brazil).

Jauregui discusses specific interventions to improve the safety of environmental defenders and effective measures to mitigate the risk of assassination. ‘We need to tackle the root causes behind violence against environmental defenders. In addition, there is a concrete combination of interventions to improve the safety of environmental defenders. For example, we have an emergency fund in place to bring people into safety or to provide legal assistance.’

Other measures IUCN NL takes to improve the safety of environmental defenders are security and resilience trainings and knowledge exchange within different networks.

Special attention to women

‘We pay special attention to women,’ Jauregui says, ‘as they are often more vulnerable to violence.’

A great example is the ReSisters Dialogue, organised by Judy Pasimio of IUCN NL partner organisation LILAK in the Philippines. ‘During this meeting, women community leaders and activists gather to reflect on the challenges and threats they face in defending their access to natural resources and share valuable strategies, lessons and insights.’   

Connection with UN mechanisms

Jauragui also mentions a small initiative in the Chaco dry forest in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, where our local partner organisations Fundación Plurales developed an app that sends information from the ground directly to international partners and UN mechanisms.

‘It’s extremely important to gather information about threats, to anticipate and prevent assassinations,’ Jauregui stresses. ‘At the moment, this information is still very scarce.’

More information

Liliana Jauregui
Liliana Jauregui
Senior Expert Environmental Justice