Ensuring protection for the grassroots advocates

Does the work that community advocates or grassroots advocates do put them at risk? If so what should be done to ensure their safety and who should be responsible?

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Thank you for bringing up this important issue, @Chinga! I would like to start by inviting other practitioners with a focus or some background in this area to the discussion, particularly @vivektrivedi, @jacquelinzammuto, @Estela, @grufides, @dunijeidoh, @valentinastackl, @Tom_Weerachat, @inclusivedevelopment, @Makara - any thoughts on this difficult question? Maybe @Lucimasu may have some thoughts from the Zimbabwean context as well.

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@Chinga thanks for raising this question, it is certainly an important one. Grassroots legal advocates, community mobilisers or paralegals working on environment justice cases in India are encountered with this problem as part of their work. The threats are sometimes from the violators who are owners of a mine, industry, road, power plant or port. But at other times it is by people from their own village or surrounding area who would be complicit in this violation.

The security of people doing this work is of utmost importance for all of us working on these issues. We have tried to build alteast two specific safeguards into our methodology that help address this partially. First, all the cases that grassroots legal advocates have the backing of affected people. There are extensive discussions between clients and a community paralegal/advocate prior to taking each step. The second is the use of a legal hook to address complaints. This not only helps frame the remedy within the rule of law but also directs it to a regulatory institution with whom a remedy would lie.

We are aware of the strengths and limitations of this approach and perhaps it might not work in all contexts. But the strategic importance of non-adversarial form of seeking solutions for environment justice problems in countries like India have certainly helped the cause.

@cpr_team

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Thanks @kanchikohli for the response. I am interested in the legal hook approach. How does it work?

Dear @Chinga In my current work we face different risks, more related with insecurity and natural disasters. However in the past i have worked extensively in advocacy work that put under risk the human right defenders. I have two main recommendations:

  • At the grassroots level it’s important to build relationship with governmental institutions (if possible) so they don’t feel attack by your work. Also, you should join a national human rights or work related topic network to receive more support.
  • At the international level, it’s important to let know they are not alone, are supported by international bodies. If the grassroots advocates are victims of police abuse or detention, the international coalition should be their voice, do advocacy and lobbying presure to protect them. Even, you can organize international delegations with lawyers, organizations or any entitity interested in your work, so they can show in your work areas you are not alone. Hope this is helpful
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@Chinga I just realized your question is related with the situation in Honduras. Actually my advocacy experience is on central american issues. I am Salvadoran and i have worked in advocacy campaigns in solidarity with Honduras since 2009 to 2014. One of the big factors that has helped Salvadoran human rights defenders in the international support we have. In the 80’s in El Salvador a big international coalition was created that still remains alive. My experience in Honduras is that despite the efforts, the situation is not well know at the international level and much more lobbying work is needed. I know the complexities of the Honduran context, but a lot of international work is still needed. If you want to talk more with me about this topic you can send me a message or send me an email at egarcia@microjusticiaperu.org

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Thanks @Estela I will get in touch