From Córdoba to Brazil: Environmental defenders in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

From May 20 to 29, the 167th Ordinary Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CoIDH) was held in Brazil. On this occasion, the Public Hearings of the Advisory Opinion on “Climate Emergency and Human Rights” presented by Chile and Colombia continued. On April 27, the CIEL Foundation and VUDAS (United Neighbors in Defense of a Healthy Environment) were presenting within the framework of the amicus curie presented by Fundeps together with other civil society organizations, representatives of the Public of the Escazú Agreement and communities in struggle, relating to human rights defenders in environmental matters in the context of climate change and energy transition.

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In January 2023, Chile and Colombia presented to the Court a request for an Advisory Opinion on Climate Emergency and Human Rights. Through this request, the CoIDH was asked to issue a ruling in relation to state obligations to protect, prevent and guarantee people and territories in the context of a climate emergency.

Dozens of organizations and defenders from the region saw in this request for an advisory opinion an opportunity to present to the IACHR their observations, arguments and concerns regarding the points of analysis presented by Chile and Colombia. The level of citizen participation, carried out through amicus curiae, makes the request historic and highlights the concern that exists around the issues presented to the CoIDH for its consideration.

In this sense, in the amicus curie, from Fundeps, together with more than 15 civil society organizations, elected representatives of the Public of the Escazú Agreement and communities in struggle, we provide arguments related to:
a. the importance of ratifying the Escazú Agreement by countries that have not yet done so.
b. The fundamental thing would be for the Inter-American Court to apply the protection standards of the Escazú Agreement in its decisions.
c. The intersectionality that exists between structural inequalities, vulnerability to the climate emergency and the risks faced by women and, in particular, women defenders.
d. The challenges presented by the energy transition in relation to the protection of human rights.

Representing the amicus, Luisa Gómez from the CIEL Foundation and Silvia Cruz and Maria Rosa Viñolo from Vecinas Unidos en Defensa de un Ambiente Seguro (VUDAS) traveled to participate in the hearing in the city of Manaus, Brazil. On Monday, May 27, they presented the main argumentative points of the amicus. You can see his interventions starting at minute 51:27 of this video.

They have been carrying out a socio-environmental struggle for more than 10 years against the installation and operation of a bioethanol production plant in their neighborhood, in the City of Córdoba. From Fundeps, we accompany the VUDAS in their fight and on this occasion, we present their witness case in the inter-American system as it illustrates the challenges faced by human rights defenders in environmental matters and even more so by women defenders. The VUDAS, like other organizations, navigate daily the contradictions of an unjust energy transition, which generates areas of sacrifice and puts human rights in check. Many of the alternatives or solutions that are presented as “green” in the context of energy transition, bring with them multiple problems and violations of rights that, if not addressed comprehensively, endanger communities and territories.

The resolution of this request for an advisory opinion, which is expected at the end of this year, generates great expectations due to the need that exists in the inter-American human rights system, for the IACHR to issue a ruling regarding the obligations and responsibilities of the States. in the context of climate emergency and energy transition.



Manuela Fernandez Grassani


Laura Carrizo, lauracarrizo@fundeps.org