Green Advocates International Launches Global Initiative to Protect Grassroots Environmental Defenders

By: Jeremiah Sackie Cooper

Liberia: In a concerted effort to safeguard Grassroots Environmental Defenders (GEDs) worldwide from escalating threats, violence, and weak governance, Green Advocates International (Liberia) has joined hands with five other organizations across the globe.

This collaboration marks the launch of the “Standing Together for Environmental Defenders (STAND)” initiative, generously funded by the US State Department.

The STAND initiative aims to provide comprehensive support to civil society organizations engaged in safeguarding GEDs in Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Liberia.

Through a combination of training, financial assistance, and collaborative partnerships, the initiative seeks to address the pressing challenges faced by GEDs in these regions.

Grassroots Environmental Defenders play a pivotal role in protecting both the environment and their local communities.

Despite their invaluable contributions, they often encounter grave risks, including threats to their safety, violence, and smear campaigns.

While international bodies like the United Nations Human Rights Council and regional commissions have recognized the importance of their role, GEDs continue to face inadequate recognition and protection from both state and private sector actors.

In Liberia, the situation is particularly dire. The country is home to diverse indigenous communities deeply connected to their ancestral lands. However, these lands are constantly under threat from activities such as logging, mining, and agricultural expansion.

Meanwhile, GEDs find themselves marginalized and repressed, facing intimidation and violence in their own country.

Green Advocates International has been at the forefront of supporting Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in addressing the pressing issues related to the climate crisis and its socio-environmental impacts, particularly those stemming from multinational corporations’ operations.

Recent events, such as the tragic protest in Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County, where three grassroots defenders lost their lives, underscore the urgent need for action.

From Bea Mountain to Mano Oil Palm, and from MNG Gold to ArcelorMittal, grassroots defenders and indigenous communities across Liberia face similar challenges. They endure harsh conditions and brutality at the hands of multinational concession companies, often with the support of state security forces.

Regrettably, the Liberian government appears more focused on protecting investors rather than addressing the grievances and violations faced by its citizens.

GEDs are forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands, leaving them struggling to survive amidst impunity.

The STAND Initiative aims to address these injustices by empowering GEDs with the necessary resources and tools to access environmental information, participate in decision-making processes, seek justice, and build coalitions for effective advocacy.

Led by The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Alliance for Indigenous, Land, and Environmental Defenders (ALLIED), this global effort seeks to drive systemic change for the recognition, support, and protection of Grassroots Environmental Defenders worldwide.

As the STAND initiative takes flight, it represents a beacon of hope for GEDs in Liberia and beyond.

By standing together, communities, civil society organizations, and international partners can work towards a future where environmental defenders are respected, supported, and able to carry out their crucial work without fear or hindrance.

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