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Hi, this is Michelle. Levels of violence against green activists have soared in recent years, and countries – even democratic ones – are arming themselves with harsh laws against what they view as disruptive acts of protest. I met with the man tasked with protecting the most threatened defenders in Europe and central Asia and asked about his plans to reach those elsewhere.

In other news from international Geneva, a report exposes a wide gender pay gap in the health sector and the UN rights chief picks up a pen for the first time to defend her decision to visit China.

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Michelle Langrand


Protecting nature’s safekeepers

Photo article

Michel Forst was elected special rapporteur for environmental defenders in June by the Aarhus Convention on environmental information. (Credit: Geneva Solutions/ML)

Defending the planet’s health can be a dangerous line of work – at times deadly. Two thirds of defenders murdered worldwide are environmental advocates, with 227 killings reported in 2020. While attacks in Europe and Central Asia are not as frequent as in other parts of the world, industries and governments publicly exposed for polluting or turning a blind eye to environmental crimes have been known to retaliate with harassment, legal action and even violence.

Environmental defenders in Ukraine documenting the impacts of the war or campaigners in Switzerland practising civil disobedience to alert the public about the climate threat can now turn to a UN expert to rapidly intervene on their behalf.

Elected at the end of June by parties to the Aarhus convention on the right to information about environmental issues, Michel Forst is the world’s first UN special rapporteur on environmental defenders. The nomination follows a 2021 decision by European and central Asian countries to create a rapid response mechanism amid a rise in attacks against defenders.

Read the full story on Geneva Solutions (EN)

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