Defending the defenders: tropical forests in the front line

Indigenous peoples and forest communities face violence and threats globally

Photo by CIFOR
24 May 2019
Landscape News Editor

“Climate change is hitting hardest those who have done least to cause it, especially the world’s indigenous peoples from the Arctic to the tropics,” said renowned actor and activist Alec Baldwin speaking at the 18th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York on 23 April 2019.

Identifying the lack of land rights for indigenous peoples as a major problem, he warned his audience: “If you are serious about fighting climate change, get serious about empowering the people who are protecting the world’s forests.”

Tropical forests are critical for addressing climate change and achieving sustainable development. They are a treasure trove of biological diversity and home to indigenous peoples and forest communities, who have protected and managed them for generations.

Now, however, many of these communities find themselves on the front lines of the deforestation crisis, their lives and livelihoods threatened by illegal logging and mining operators, poachers, agribusiness, drug traffickers and even governments.

In 2017 alone, 207 environmental defenders were killed protecting their lands, territories and forests from destruction, a disproportionate number of them indigenous people.

As the threats to forest defenders are growing, new responses are also emerging.

UN Environment’s Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, an international, multi-faith alliance working to bring moral urgency and faith-based leadership to global efforts to protect tropical forests and the rights of indigenous peoples, hosted an event in New York on 23 April entitled Forest Defenders: New Threats and New Responses.

Continue reading the full story at UN Environment.

For further information, please contact Joe Corcoran.


Further resources:

Link to the full video of the event:

Faith for Earth—an ethical approach to global challenges

UN Environment Faith for Earth Foresight Brief

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