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Article

1 Nov 2021

Author:
Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Global: Report of UN expert shows backlash on climate justice, threats to climate activists & role of business in shrinking civic spaces

"Exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association as essential to advancing climate justice", 23 July 2021

In this report, the Special Rapporteur addresses the challenges and risks facing individuals, communities and organizations exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in order to support and advance climate justice and provides recommendations...

Restrictions, attacks and failure to protect the environment and its defenders have been extensively documented... The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified these threats, as States have been enacting emergency measures that further enhance their powers...

The most pressing challenge facing climate and environmental justice advocates is the threat of violence... Many of these killings have been preceded by online and offline threats, physical attacks and other acts of intimidation... In addition to experiencing direct attacks, climate justice activists have been the victim of vilification, disinformation and smear campaigns aimed at discrediting their work, portraying their activities as unlawful and generating scepticism centred on the climate crisis...

The climate justice movement has had its impact dampened by a proliferation of laws and administrative actions limiting and banning assemblies, many of which have specifically targeted climate protests... Some States have passed laws criminalizing protests concerning or involving “critical infrastructure”, which has been expansively defined to include pipelines and oil shipping lanes...

Another way in which States undermine the climate justice movement has been through use of the justice system against environmental activists and their organizations... Companies have also targeted climate defenders with what have come to be known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation”, (SLAPPs)... Criminal defamation charges have reportedly been used in Latin America and Southeast Asia to prosecute indigenous people, activists and human rights defenders...

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