HRDs’ work is essential to the business and human rights movement because of their critical importance for ensuring corporate responsibility and accountability. Yet, attacks on them are growing. This hub brings together news on these advocates and communities – specifically on land, environmental and labour defenders, guidance for companies and investors, and supportive business actions. It also links to our database of attacks and interview series.

We all have the right and the responsibility to promote human rights and to safeguard democracy and its institutions. Human rights defenders are those of us that actively do so. Around the world, civic freedoms and human rights defenders (HRDs) are increasingly under attack and the environment in which civil society can operate freely is narrowing. This phenomenon is taking place not just in countries that are led by repressive or autocratic governments, but also in established democracies. In particular, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, freedom of information, and the right to privacy, are under increasing attack. Both companies and defenders have a shared interest in the full respect of civic freedoms, characterised by non-discrimination, transparent and accountable government, and freedom from corruption.

Land & Environmental Defenders

Land and environmental defenders are at the forefront of action to address the causes and impacts of climate change and yet despite their vital contributions to protecting our shared planet, experience threats and violence because of their work, as well as heightened risks during the COVID-19 pandemicGlobal Witness’ 2020 annual report on killings of land and environmental defenders (LEDs) shows that in 2019, the highest number of LEDs were killed in a single year to date.

Indigenous peoples, who comprise less than 5% of the world’s population and protect 80% of its biodiversity, are disproportionately affected by attacks, with 40% of killings tracked by Global Witness occurring in indigenous communities.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre tracked 570 attacks (incl. non-lethal) against defenders focused on business-related activities in 2019. Among these attacks, approximately 40% were found to be related to the mining (143) and agribusiness (85) sectors.