October 4, 2018

Launch Statement of the Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED)

The Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED) welcomes the recognition of environment defenders in their struggle to protect the environment and assert people’s rights as reflected in the newly signed Escazú Agreement by Latin American governments to protect environment defenders during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The landmark treaty is first-of-its-kind and a success to fellow environment defenders in Latin America.

Another recognition of the struggle is the awarding of the United Nations Champions of the Earth Award to fellow environment defender and indigenous rights activist, Joan Carling. Joan was among those maliciously tagged as terrorists by the Philippine government because of her consistent and strong stances against oppressive policies and projects in the country.
The two events are timely recognitions amidst the intensified attacks against frontline defenders across the globe.

The Global Witness 2017 report has noted at least 207 deaths of land and environment defenders globally with Brazil, the Philippines, and Colombia as topmost dangerous places on Earth for environment defenders. Most of the killings, harassments, threats, forced disappearances, and forced displacements are related to big businesses in the sectors of agricultural plantations, mining, and logging.

In the Asia Pacific, the intensified plunder of resources leads to more violation of rights of indigenous and peasant communities. The increase in foreign investments in the forms of so-called development projects have led mass exodus of indigenous peoples from their territories and killings of hundreds who are trying to resist and oppose.

In the Philippines, at least 67 environment activists have been killed since 2016. Killings and use of state forces against defenders in other parts of the region have also been increasing such as in India where at least 13 anti-copper plant protesters in Tamil Nadu were killed by state forces during a democratic protest just months ago, and at least 50 killed in Thailand in the last 15 years. Criminalization of defenders is also a trend as it happens in Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia.

In this context, the Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED) is formed. The APNED is an initiative borne out of the urgency to act on the worsening situations of environment defenders in the Asia
Pacific. It is a solidarity network of individuals, civil society groups, and peoples’ organizations in the region united in defending and reclaiming the rights of environment defenders, and their communities to life and the right to live in harmony with nature.

We challenge the governments in the Asia Pacific to do the same and recognize the role of defenders in protecting the environment and their contribution to sustainable development by asserting people’s rights over management and control of their natural resources. It is high time for governments to listen to the call of the people to recognize and respect the rights of environment defenders. It is also timely this year as we celebrate the 20th year anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups, and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms or known as the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, for governments in Asia Pacific to forge agreements that would address the issue.

Together with fellow environment defenders, indigenous people’s organizations, civil society groups, and grassroots organizations, the APNED is also joining the People’s Global Conference Against IMF-World
Bank that will be held in Bali, Indonesia from 8 to 14 October 2018 to expose corporate takeover and state impunity leading to many forms of human rights violations among frontline defenders. The event will also highlight the struggles of fellow environment defenders in Indonesia facing state repression and
corporate impunity.###