[Statement] World Nature Conservation Day

July 28, 2023

Nature and Its Defenders: Our Lifeline

On World Nature Conservation Day, we celebrate the beauty and diversity of the natural world and highlight the importance of protecting it to fulfill our shared goal for a stable and healthy society for the current and future generations. The Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED) is in solidarity with environmental advocates and environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) to raise awareness and strengthen global conservation efforts and human rights protection for our rich biodiversity. 

Asia and the Pacific boast numerous biodiversity hotspots in the world and are home to some of Earth’s most unique and endangered flora and fauna. From the snow leopards of the Himalayas, the Jawless eels in the Pacific, and the Pangolins in Southeast Asia. These animals are an essential part of our shared heritage and cultures. Additionally, the region has vast and pristine natural landscapes, forests, and seas vital to daily life. It protects us from the climate crisis’s devastating impacts, and its preservation is our pathway to a more sustainable future. But these ecosystems face several severe threats from human activities, including deforestation, large-scale mining, wildlife trade, excessive pollution, and human-induced climate change. Without our help, many of these species and frontiers may be extinct, an ultimate sign of how we continue to disrespect our “harmonious” relationship with nature.

As a response, EHRDs, primarily indigenous communities, farmers, and fisherfolk, have protected the environment for decades-which is vital to fulfilling our fundamental right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable world. These brave individuals are at the frontlines in protecting our common home, often at significant personal risk. For instance, forest rangers in Asia face many threats to preserving the world’s last carbon sinks. Commercial poaching is common in wildlife sanctuaries in Cambodia and Indonesia and protected areas in the Philippines. There are also other challenges, such as over-extraction and illegal activities. But these groups stand courageously and face violence for protecting forest ecosystems, and many have died in the process. Additionally, indigenous people, fisherfolk, and farmers in Asia and the Pacific meet the same level of threats for their ongoing struggle to assert their rights to protect their homes and biodiversity due to the increasing encroachment of false solutions in the form of mega-dams and mega-development projects. 

We stand in solidarity with EHRDs globally. We call on governments to protect them from violence, increasing repression, and shrinking civic spaces, which restricts their work in upholding human and environmental rights. Moreover, we continue the calls for accountability for the countless human rights violations and their unjust killings. 

Alongside strengthening global conservation and environmental and human rights efforts, businesses and governments must shift and transform their profit-oriented development goals. We call on them to reflect upon their historically damaging activities and heed civil society’s calls for an environmentally-sustainable and human rights-based approach to development which is central to attaining genuine development. 

Together, we can ensure that our ecosystems thrive for generations to come by: 

  • Supporting local communities working towards environmental rehabilitation, conservation, and protection;
  • Asserting the implementation of responsible business and human rights principles;
  • Getting involved and speaking up for local and global conservation efforts and campaigns and; 
  • Urging government agencies and relevant institutions to respect, promote and protect environmental and human rights by advocating for an environmentally-sustainable and human rights-based approach to development.

We all have a role in protecting our struggling ecosystems and must work together to ensure significant change. On World Nature Conservation Day, let’s commit to doing our part and leaving a healthy planet for future generations 

#WorldNatureConservationDay #ProtectWildlife #DefendTheDefenders