Photo: Felipe Milanez

At risk: Understanding contemporary environmental civil society challenges

Project summary

Environmental civil society organizations, as well as individual defenders, have long played a key role in shaping how we understand environmental problems and craft solutions. However, the ways and conditions under which these actors work have changed rapidly over the last decade.

This project seeks to generate new evidence in this area, gather key stakeholders around this issue in the context of International Geneva, and ultimately contribute to the development of evidence-based policies that can offer better protection for environmental defenders.

Environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) strive for the realization of the rights and fundamental freedoms as they relate to the enjoyment of a safe, healthy and sustainable environment. They are facing heightened risks and suffer grave violations of their rights, such as killings and detention, threats and intimidation, stigma and criminalization from State and non-State actors, despite the protection afforded to them by the human rights law. 

A wide range of civil society and multilateral efforts are emerging, including the Human Rights Council’s Resolution 40/11 adopted on 21 March 2019, that recognizes the contribution of environmental human rights defenders and the obligations of States to respect their fundamental rights.

However, the role and changing conditions of civil society actors and organizations remain poorly understood, especially at the regional level. In order to support the implementation and effectiveness of emerging policies and initiatives in the defence of EHRDs, researchers need to engage with regional actors to produce fresh evidence and insights on the changing political, legal and institutional challenges and make this data available to policy actors in a timely manner. 

This project aims to produce new evidence and create a collective platform (Geneva Roadmap) to enhance understanding, dialogue, linkages and synergies between researchers, initiatives and commitments of States, civil society networks, and private actors involved in the protection of environmental defenders.

International policy actors have a better understanding of key regional trends and elaborate evidence-based policies that offer better protection for environmental defenders.

The project will cover the following activities:

  1. Participatory research and production of new evidence on current threats facing EHRDs at the regional level;
  2. Multistakeholder engagement activities in Geneva to present research results and establish a collective platform (Geneva Roadmap)
  3. Drafting of recommendations to be presented in relevant international policy fora, including the  2020 IUCN World Congress in Marseilles.
June 2019 - January 2021
Project core partners
  • Dr. Peter Larsen, Senior lecturer and researcher, Unige: peter.larsen 
  • Dr. Frédérique Guérin, Executive Officer, GSPI: frederique.guerin