UN Human Rights Council: 36th Session 
Panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples

Disponible en Espanol

I read this statement on behalf of 39 human rights defenders and civil society organisations working on indigenous, land and environmental rights from 29 countries who met in Johannesburg, South Africa from 7-9 August 2017 to discuss strategies to advance the protection of indigenous, land and environmental rights activists.

Mr. President, 2016 surpassed 2015 as the deadliest year on record for those stood up against land grabbing, natural resource exploitation and environmental destruction. Worryingly, the number of killed has risen to 200 from 185 in 2016 and spread to several countries across the world.

In the current global climate, where repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly is becoming the norm rather than the exception, environmental and land defenders are particularly vulnerable.

When we express concerns over the collusion between States and corporate actors, we face opposition - dissent is stifled and criminalised, and our lives are threatened. Often our work is discredited and we are labelled ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-development’.

When we protest peacefully against this attack on our resources and livelihoods, we face violence from state authorities, private security groups and state-sponsored vigilante groups. When we stand up to defend the rights of our communities, we face unfounded criminal charges, unlawful arrests, custodial torture, threats to life and liberty, surveillance, judicial harassment and administrative hurdles, among other actions.

Mr. President, our families are threatened into silence and many of us have had to make the difficult decision to flee our homes and go into exile, retreating from a fight that has become too dangerous.

We need global action to counter the threats we face.

We ask the panellists to urge the Council to emphasise the need for all states to ensure that affected communities are adequately consulted, including securing their full consent prior to the development of infrastructure and extractive industries projects.  

More information:

Related Articles


Johannesburg Office
25  Owl Street, 6th Floor
Johannesburg, 2092
Tel: +27 (0)11 833 5959
Fax: +27 (0)11 833 7997


Geneva Office
11 Avenue de la Paix
Tel: +41 (0)22 733 3435


Washington DC Office
CIVICUS World Alliance
1775 Eye Street NW Suite 1150
Washington DC 20006, USA

New York Office
205 East 42nd Street, 15th Floor
New York, New York, 10017


London Office
Unit 60
Eurolink Business Centre
49 Effra Road
SW2 1BZ, London
Tel: +44 (0)20 7733 9696