BY BEN BILUA
The Regional Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on
human rights defenders and activities to be beacons of hope for victims of human right violation.
Speaking during the Human Right Workshop held at Nadi, Fiji this week Heike Alefsen said Civil Society
Organizations and human rights defenders play an important role in protecting the environment by seeking
solutions and advocating for accountability.
She adds that the role of civil society organization and human right defenders are to educate indigenous
people to understand types of human rights violations that are commonly hidden in the name of
economic development and other interests.
Alefsen also said human defenders are vital to the development of democratic processes and institutions,
ending impunity, speaking out against violations, and promoting so as protection of human rights in all
“Your role going forward is to protect the rights of future generations.
“You are speaking out about these practices that harm the environment and stand up for victims.
“From our office’s perspective, we stand with those you who are engaging in all the spaces and we
would like to underline it,” she said.
Alefsen said the Pacific region contributes little to the pollution of the environment, to climate change
loss of biodiversity, however, the population is facing the risk as well as the impacts, this is why
environmental human right defenders and activists is important.
She said the newly endorsed United Nations Convention on the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable
the environment is an important international legal framework that human defenders can use to save the
people from natural and man-made pollution.
Alefsen said she is pleased to see human rights activists and human rights defenders from 13 countries in the
pacific coming together to reaffirm their duties by way of learning and sharing information.
She told the participant that human defenders and activist in the Pacific region is part of a global movement
trying to protect the environment.
“There are expectations on natural resources such as mining, logging, and fisheries which sometimes
contributes to the loss of traditional asserts and livelihoods as businesses and states have little obligation to
protect the environment and this requires institutional and structural reform to align issues and at the same
time encourages activists to do their job without oppression and pressure from any institution.
“The role of human rights defender is not easy as activists will face backlash from authorities and at times
put their lives and the lives of their loved ones at risk,” Alefsen said
She said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Pacific region has an ongoing
initiative to engage human rights defenders in the work of international human right mechanism and the
international ecosystem mechanism.
Alefsen hopes the three days workshop will encourage serious networking and build the capacity of
participants to take back to their respective countries.