For their tireless work in empowering communities and protecting ecosystems, environmental defenders are killed in startling numbers. Murder is not the only way environmental defenders are persecuted; for every 1 killed, there are 20 to 100 others harassed, unlawfully and lawfully arrested, and sued for defamation, amongst other intimidations” – John Knox, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment.

The UN defines environmental human rights defenders as “individuals and groups who, in their personal or professional capacity and in a peaceful manner, strive to protect and promote human rights relating to the environment, including water, air, land, flora and fauna”. 

Environmental defenders remain highly vulnerable and under attack across the globe. Worldwide, environmental defenders face growing assaults and murders- in conjunction with increasing intimidation, harassment, stigmatization and criminalization.

The United Nations has recognized the threats to environmental defenders and called for their protection. UNEP builds on this work to support environmental defenders through its Defenders Policy, through which we:

  • Denounce the attacks, torture, intimidation and murders of environmental defenders;
  • Advocate with states and non-state actors, including business, for better protection of environmental rights and the people standing up for these rights;
  • Support the responsible management of natural resources;
  • Request government and companies’ accountability for the different events where environmental defenders have been affected / murdered.