Human rights have seen the worst of times in Asia, especially in recent years according to a report by the United Nations Declaration on Human right defenders. The biennial report, titled Defending In Numbers, by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM‐ASIA), documented 688 cases of violations and abuses affecting 4,854 people — including human rights organisations, local communities and media outlets — across 18 countries in the continent between 2017 and 2018.
Most common forms of violations were 327 cases of judicial harassment 249 cases of arbitrary detention, and 164 cases even involved violence. About 50% of the total 688 cases in the year have been against those fighting for the cause of democracy and access to land and environmental rights.
The most targeted group of HRDs were against pro-democracy defenders, accounting to Over 210 cases. Between 2017 and 2018, pro-democracy defenders were harshly targeted with violations six of which resulted in the death of the defender. This was followed by land and environmental rights activists — fighting to access natural resources.
The activists include indigenous and tribal peoples, farming and peasant groups and other local communities, whose land, life, and livelihoods are threatened by the exploitation of the environment and the establishment of development projects that violate people’s rights.
The violations were most common in the Philippines (39 cases), Vietnam (23 cases) and India (17 cases).
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and their staff, defenders of women rights and journalists (87 cases) were also heavily targeted in 2017-2018.
State actors such as the police, the judiciary and armed forces were ranked as the number one perpetrator of harassment and abuse against HRDs. However, the role of non-state actors in harassing land and environmental defenders was increasingly common between 2017 and 2018.
The non-state actors primarily include businesses and corporations in the mining and extractives industries and agri-businesses, competing to access natural resources for profit or otherwise seeking to implement large-scale development projects with little regard for its impact on the surrounding communities or environment.
As development projects proliferate and the competition for natural resources increases, the situation of activists fighting for the cause of environment is expected to worsen unless measures are established for their protection.
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The CSR Journal Team