Human rights defenders: Increasing support for environmental, land and indigenous defenders with digital tools

On July 28th, the Zero Tolerance Initiative, together with Universal Rights Group held an online event to launch new digital tools that support environmental, land and indigenous defenders.  

In his introductory remarks, David R. Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment, highlighted the urgency of the situation for rights defenders, calling it an “unprecedented, global and environmental crisis.” 

"During Covid-19, we've celebrated the front-line health workers...but when we talk about the planetary crisis it is human rights defenders who are on the front lines. They are the heroes,” he said. 

Cambodia: A 75-year-old indigenous rights defender

Until recently, the last members of the indigenous Souy people lived peacefully on their ancestral territory. But the arrival of a sugar cane company, with ties to the President, meant they lost access to their land and waterholes. The company mustered the support of the police, and when villagers began blocking the roads, the company used force to remove them, and many villagers were arrested or beaten. IWGIA tells the story of a courageous 75-year-old woman, who helped the Souy defend their land against this invading agribusiness.

Read the story

Indonesia: Customary community of Nagari Koto Baru

As land disputes over palm oil plantations in West Sumatra, Indonesia flare up, community leaders and human rights defenders are being subjected to increasing intimidation and criminalisation by local police allegedly spurred on by planters. 

Read the story

Human rights defenders: Consumer Goods Forum companies must prevent violence and killings in supply chains 

The agribusiness sector has seen a 60% increase in killings of human rights defenders in the last year, most of them indigenous peoples.

“The agribusiness supply chain is one of the riskiest for human rights defenders and communities,” said Michel Forst, former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.


“The Consumer Goods Forum – as a key platform for retailers, producers of products from palm oil, soya among others – can play a key role in advancing the [human rights] debate and improve corporate practices related to human rights defenders and environmental rights defenders.”

Brazil: IWGIA condemns killing of indigenous leader in Brazil

Emyra Waiãpi, a 68-year-old indigenous leader, was stabbed to death as around 50 gold miners, a dozen of whom were heavily armed, entered the remote Waiãpi indigenous reserve in the northern Brazilian state of Amapá. IWGIA condemns the killing of the Waiãpi leader and all indigenous peoples who are defending their rights to their traditional lands, which are rapidly being exploited in the global land rush for natural resources.

Read the story

Peru: Shipbo-Konibo community of Santa Clara de Uchunya

The Shipibo-Konibo community of Santa Clara de Uchunya are struggling against the dispossession and devastation of their ancestral lands due to the aggressive expansion of oil palm. As well as negatively impacting food security and destroying their way of life, the company’s presence has driven fierce competition for control over lands between groups of settlers dedicated to land-trafficking and exposed the Shipibo-Konibo indigenous community to intimidation, threats and attacks. 

Colombia: The Arhuacos’ last stand in the heights of Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada of Santa Maria is rich in precious minerals. 261 mining concessions have already been given, and a further 244 concessions are pending . However, the indigenous Arhuacos have not been included in these decisions and processes. In 2017, this led to a massive protest against the mining projects and their destructive impact on their territories.

“For we Arhuaco, our territory is the basis of our knowledge and it forms the setting in which our culture is able to develop”, says Rubiel Zalabata.

Read the story, and watch a short film about the Arhuacos from IWGIA here