Commercial agriculture has driven land use changes and not only affected millions of hectares of forested land, but also farmers’ and local people’s land rights. Efforts to combat deforestation are at the forefront of the international aid agenda, and clarifying and securing land rights is important for its success.
BERTA CÁCERES, ASSASSINATED in her home in March 2016, was just one of hundreds of Latin American environmental activists attacked in recent years. At least 577 environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) were killed in Latin America between 2010 and 2015 – more than in any other region. In addition to violence, EHRDs suffer legal threats and harassment, severely impeding their work. Before Cáceres' murder, she faced trumped-up charges due to her opposition to hydroelectric dams on her indigenous community's territory.
“It is up to me to follow in the same footsteps as my father walked, so that they’ll give us back our land again.”
- Ramón Bedoya, Colombia
“The desire for justice and reparations for the fallen defenders, for their families, and above all that this never happens again—that is an energy that compels you to keep working.”
– Isela González, Mexico
“The owner of the plantation… should give back our land… It’s not just for our family but the rest of the people living in the area. My father offered his blood. He gave his life. We will continue.”
A CLASSIC RESPONSE from governments and businesses in recent time is not just to characterize legitimate grievances by Indigenous Peoples and local communities as anti- government, anti-development, and anti-investment. They are waging wars against Indigenous Peoples and individuals who are protecting the planet and its people by criminalizing their legitimate grievances and then threatening, arresting, intimidating, and imprisoning those who dare challenge this mode of development.
FRONT LINE DEFENDERS has documented 821 human rights defenders (HRDs) who have been killed in the four years since we started producing an annual global list in cooperation with national and international NGOs. Seventy-nine percent of this total came from six countries: Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the Philippines. The vast majority of these cases have never been properly investigated, and few of the perpetrators of the killings have been brought to justice.
Plantation workers in southern India are the unlikely subjects of a Tamil language film whose director said he wanted to draw attention to their struggles, which remain largely unchanged despite the country's fast economic growth.
"Merku Thodarchi Malai" (The Western Ghats), shows the daily lives of workers on cardamom estates in the hills on the frontiers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala states, and explores themes of landlessness, migration, caste and human-animal conflict.
Montenegro is preparing another millennial nationalization, as land grabbing becomes a country’s law, with 293 million square metres of seacoast territories to be seized. Private property is being treated as a money machine, leaving owners deprived.
In Zimbabwe, Transparency International has been working extensively on land governance issues, and what has emerged is that women are often coerced to engage in sexual acts with a male person in authority in order to have access to land. Land is a form of property and a source of livelihood for most people in Zimbabwe. Both men and women find themselves one way or another being coerced to engage in corruption, mostly bribery to own a piece of land both in the urban and rural/communal areas. However, women are often subjected to sextortion in the quest to own land.
Sextortion: referring to a form of blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favors from the victim. One of the biggest challenges for those working in the land and natural resources sector, has been drawing attention to the fact that this happens in our sector, too and most importantly, that something needs to be done about it.
In the midst of last week's High Level Political Forum, we took a few moments out and a few steps away from the conference rooms, to speak with women's land rights defender Ms. Joan Carling. Having recently fallen victim to unfounded terrorist accusations, along with several of her colleague from the Philippines, her message is loud and clear. Women such as herself, most particularly indigenous women, will continue to ensure that they are heard.