Hannah Matthews (PBI international communications coordinator) moderated this panel featuring David R. Boyd (UN Special Rapporteur), Juana Ramona Zuñiga (Honduras), Amaru Ruiz (Nicaragua), Nelly Madegwa (Kenya), Valeria Villalobos (Mexico), Sandra Calel (Guatemala) and Danilo Rueda (Colombia).

On November 6, Peace Brigades International hosted a webinar featuring six frontline land and environmental rights defenders and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment.

There were 408 people registered for the webinar and viewers joined from Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Italy, Germany, United States, UK, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, Canada, Austria, Trinidad and Tobago.

To watch the video of the webinar, please click here. To date, it has 178 views.

David R. Boyd

“We need more defenders of the right to a healthy environment, Indigenous rights, the rights of the child and other human rights. And yet in far too many states today standing up for the environment is a dangerous and even deadly activity.” – David R. Boyd

David R. Boyd is the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment. He is a lawyer based on Vancouver Island, Canada.

On October 8, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted this resolution recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

David has commented: “This resolution is especially important for all of the environmental human rights defenders working, often at great personal risk, to safeguard the land, air, water and ecosystems that we all depend on.”

Follow David at @SREnvironment.

Juana Ramona Zuñiga

“It is unfortunate when in other countries we have been awarded for the defense of this river, for the defense of this national park, and that in Honduras they are criminalizing us.” – Juana Ramona Zúñiga

Juana is a member of the Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos (Committee for the Defence of Common and Public Assets – CMDBCP). She lives in the village of Guapinol in the municipality of Tocoa in the department of Colón.

Her husband José Abelino Cedillo is currently in prison with seven other defenders for their role in peacefully defending the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers from contamination by the Inversiones Los Pinares iron oxide mine.

Follow this struggle at @GuapinolResiste.

Amaru Ruiz

“For denouncing that incoherence [of the Nicaraguan government promising to protect forests while criminalizing forest protectors] they have criminalized us.” – Amaru Ruiz

Amaru Ruíz is a biologist, researcher, environmentalist, and president of the Fundación del Río, a non-profit organization founded in 1990, focused on sustainable development and the conservation of natural assets in southeastern Nicaragua.

Amaru has lived in exile since December 2018 and from Costa Rica continues to advocate for the environmental defense of the southeast of the country, accompanying indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, and promoting actions with the Nicaraguan peasant population exiled in the north of the country.

Follow Amaru at @AmaruRuiz.

Nelly Madegwa

“in Kenya there is a law that women can own land, but in practice this is not the case. The community doesn’t understand that.” -Nelly Madegwa

Nelly works on cases that involve violations of women rights to land ownership and leads community cafes on the importance of women’s right to own land being respected and how it connects to them contributing to food security for the country.

Kenya is highly vulnerable to climate change which is worsening droughts and erratic rainfall. Owning land is key to helping women cope with the impacts of climate change, such as drought, and enables them to feed their families. Women head about 32 percent of households in Kenya, but individually hold only 1 percent of land titles.

Follow Nelly at @chamadui.

Valeria Villalobos

“The political and economic powers are determined to manipulate and devalue the environmental and cultural heritage represented by our hills and bodies of water, key points for climate change strategies.” – Valeria Villalobos

Valeria is an environmental defender with Salvemos los cerros in Chihuahua City and works “to save the hills that are the source of life, water, air, culture, identity.”

Her organization has highlighted: “The hills help capture water and mitigate climate change. As the destruction of natural areas advances, so will ‘natural’ disasters. …We all lose out with the terrible political and economic model that destroys the environment. A few make a lot of money, but money can’t be eaten, it can’t be taken, it can’t breathe, and it can’t heal.”

Follow this struggle at @salvemoscerros1.

Sandra Calel

“We are doing everything possible to continue fighting to defend nature, all to denounce deforestation, because they cover their wells from where they get the water. The northern region is still where there are rivers, where there is forest, where there are large ravines, but there are many lives that have already given to defend nature.” – Sandra Calel

Sandra is Maya Poqomchi and a deputy coordinator of the Verapaz Union of Campesina Organizations (UVOC), an Indigenous and campesina organization that defends territory and access to land for people in the departments of Alta and Baja Verapaz.

Many of the communities accompanied by UVOC are already suffering severely from climate change. Last autumn, hurricanes Iota and Eta severely damaged communities, killing more than 150 people. Indigenous communities in the region confirm that while hurricanes are “normal” the level of destruction by these hurricanes was exacerbated by already existing damage to the natural environment.


Danilo Rueda

“Only the people, the organized society, saves the organized society. Only to the extent that the conscious citizen power, the power of the people, is the conscious power, society will be transformed.” – Danilo Rueda

Danilo is the national coordinator of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission that works to achieve socio-environmental justice.

He has commented: “Big business, hand in hand with Colombian and international policy, is destroying water sources and flora and fauna by depleting the forests. This is capitalist logic, which favors the accumulation of capital, and in the long term, the effects are highly negative.”

Rueda adds: “[Protecting the environment is] empowerment and capacity building to address the impacts of land rights violations. In this area we also promote resilience against the problem of climate change.”

Follow the Justice and Peace Commission at @Justiciaypazcol.

Once again, to watch the video of the webinar, please click here.