Panama City, Sep 27 (EFE).- Environmental defenders from Latin America and the Caribbean have called for greater protection and a “voice” in the face of the violence they suffer in the region during the opening of the second annual Forum on Human Rights Defenders in Environmental Matters in Panama.
“We ask that they listen to the voice of human rights defenders and civil society. Here we are going to build an action plan so that countries can protect defenders,” Katherine Sanchez, legal advisor to the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law (SPDA), told EFE on Wednesday.
Sanchez added that “we must begin to call on countries to eradicate the structural causes of violence,” while condemning that “more than 150 people have been murdered in Latin America” and that “countries such as Peru and Brazil have not ratified” the Escazú Agreement.
Joint plan for regional protection
Several Latin American environmental defenders told EFE that they hope the event will lead to a plan to obtain greater protection from the violence they experience in the region.
In addition, indigenous peoples have asked to participate in the Escazú Agreement, ratified by 15 Latin American countries.
According to the most recent report from the international organization Global Witness, presented in September last year, 157 of the 200 environmental defenders murdered in the world in 2021 occurred in Latin America, 113 of which were in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil alone. And in 40% of the cases the victims were indigenous.
Colombia was the most dangerous country for environmental defenders in 2022: 60 murders of environmentalists were reported in “another disastrous year for the country,” a figure that is almost double that of 2021, when 33 leaders lost their lives for their work, according to data from the association.
Indigenous Latin Americans ask to participate in the Escazú Agreement
“We ask that they include an indigenous quota in the agreement, we want to be represented. As indigenous peoples we are direct defenders despite the fact that our country has not ratified the Escazú Agreement,” Saúl Vega Samuel, an environmental defender from the Asháninka people in the Peruvian Amazon, told EFE.
Last April, the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Escazú Agreement in Buenos Aires culminated in the formation of a committee to support implementation and compliance with the treaty, but none of its seven members was indigenous.
“We are influencing the development of the Escazú Agreement plan to call on our governments to take an interest. We have worked to disseminate the agreement because many people do not know about it and to promote participation mechanisms,” said Guatemalan indigenous leader Kleidy Sacbá.
For her part, Colombian defender Judy Jacanamejoy, of the Kamëntsa indigenous people, called for “recognition of sacred spaces as mechanisms for the self-protection of environmental defenders”. EFE