Human rights defenders

A look at Friends of the Earth International's work on human rights defenders.

15 Feb 2023

Our international network

As local action groups, we’re also part of Friends of the Earth International, which counts Friends of the Earth groups in more than 70 countries. The climate and ecological crises are global, making an international perspective essential to tackling them. Being part of a wider network gives us the ability to take action at that international level. With that in mind, here’s a quick look at one of Friends of the Earth International's areas of work – human rights defenders.

Human rights defenders

Human rights abuses against environmental and political activists – known as human rights defenders – are committed daily around the world, including against our fellow international Friends of the Earth groups. These attacks are often deadly, with an average of more than 4 killings a week recorded in 2020. They also take place on the frontlines of the environmental fight, in areas where communities are organising against massive deforestation or destructive extractive projects.


To protect defenders and their communities, Friends of the Earth International carries out acts of solidarity, which usually involve something as simple as sharing a tweet or signing an open letter. These actions shine a spotlight on abuses and build the pressure that can keep people safe and doing their vital work. They’re very reactive and are most effective when lots of us respond to them quickly. It’s this type of response that led to the quick release of 6 Ugandan activists working with Friends of the Earth France last October. Read more about Friends of the Earth International's work on human rights defenders.

What we can do

Our groups took action in support of Friends of the Earth Mozambique, and against human rights abuses and the government funding of a huge gas project in Cabo Delgado. Considering the effects UK policies and companies have around the world, we’re well placed here to have impact on an international scale.

We plan to do more of this type of action in the future, but in the meantime if you’d like to support any forthcoming calls for solidarity action, either in a personal or group capacity, sign up to receive international solidarity calls. And if you want to find out a bit more, check out the recording of our webinar on environmental and human rights defenders featuring Ricardo Navarro from Friends of the Earth El Salvador, or read our article on why solidarity matters.