While this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, a global crisis is unfolding. The rapid expansion of development projects on indigenous lands without their consent is driving a drastic increase in violence and legal harassment against Indigenous Peoples.
According to Front Line Defenders, 67 percent of the 312 human rights defenders murdered in 2017 were defending their lands, the environment, or indigenous rights, nearly always in the context of private sector projects. Around 80 percent of killings took place in just four countries: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and the Philippines.
In an open letter last month entitled “They should have known better”, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, states: “In spite of incredible risks, Indigenous Peoples continue to speak out. They continue to defend their ways of life, their communities, and the lands and forests all humanity depends on.” The full statement of the Special Rapporteur appears here.
On September 5th and 6th 2018 a high level international conference is taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark, under the title “ Defending the Defenders - New alliances for protecting indigenous peoples’ rights”. The conference is convened by International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) with the financial support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and IWGIA.
The main aim of the conference is to understand why in particular and increasingly indigenous peoples from developing countries are being killed or persecuted. The conference will examine the key drivers behind this global phenomenon and discuss context-specific cases. The conference will identify what can and should be done to change the current situation. It will pin out what actions UN mechanisms, regional bodies, states and local actors must take.