Emergency Support to Environmental Activist Fighting for the Future of the Amazon

Angela Maldonado is a Colombian environmental human rights defender. In 2019, she received emergency support after being subjected to death threats. Photo: Alex Rufino.

Respect for civil and political rights continues to decrease and human rights defenders all over the world are faced with threats, imprisonment, and even murder simply for doing their job – defending human rights. When the situation escalates and the need for support is urgent, our Emergency Fund can provide rapid assistance. In 2019, 547 defenders and their families received emergency support – one of them was Angela Maldonado from Colombia.

Latin America remains one of the deadliest regions in the world for human rights defenders to work in. Indigenous and environmental defenders are particularly affected by the threat, or use, of deadly violence in countries like Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, and Honduras. Colombia in particular was rated the most dangerous country in the world for environmental, land, and indigenous rights defenders in 2019.

As a Colombian environmental human rights defender, Angela Maldonado therefore took it seriously when she received death threats as a result of her advocacy work in the Amazon. Due to the high risk of being targeted because of her work, she applied for support from our emergency fund. Within a couple of weeks, she was able to temporarily relocate to a safe area.

“Thanks to the emergency grant provided by Civil Rights Defenders, I was able to relocate. It made a huge difference in my life. I am feeling safe, and I have the possibility to keep working,” said Angela Maldonado.

“Our own government intends to silence us, but intimidation won’t stop me”

Angela Maldonado is defiant. After receiving necessary support, she persists in her defence of local land rights and the right to a healthy environment, which Colombian authorities deprive local communities of. As part of a vibrant civil society, she is determined to endure and resist the attempts by powerful offenders to silence critical voices. By continuing her work, she hopes that justice and accountability can be achieved.

”Our own government intends to silence us, but intimidation won’t stop me. Civil society has to resist in order to stop the violation of fundamental rights,” said Angela Maldonado.

Angela Maldonado is the founder and scientific director of Fundacion Entropika, a Colombian environmental organisation working to preserve and protect the Amazon. Together with her colleagues, she monitors and campaigns against the illegal trafficking of wildlife between Colombia, Brazil, and Peru, advocates for the enforcement of domestic environmental legislation and international conventions regulating the trade of endangered species, and conducts capacity building and educational programmes for indigenous communities. Improving the standards of living and finding sustainable economic alternatives for indigenous communities exploited by commercial interests is according to Maldonado a precondition for curbing illegal and harmful activities in the Amazon.

”It is critical I continue with my work,” said Maldonado. “Otherwise, powerful environmental offenders can continue exploiting vulnerable people and wildlife with impunity. To them we are an obstacle, as we disrupt their illegal economic activities,” said Angela Maldonado.

Risking her own safety to defend (y)our rights

In countries like Colombia, where state capacity to enforce laws, curb violence, hold public officials accountable, and regulate economic activities is limited, resilient civil societies capable of withstanding efforts to dismantle weak democratic institutions are indispensable. This is why we support people like Angela Maldonado. Without people like her, willing to risk their safety for the rights of others, exploitation, violence, and the violation of rights would continue unchallenged. It is paramount that they are not left to their own devices when authorities are unwilling or unable to adequately protect them.

In 2019, 547 human rights defenders from 23 countries received emergency support from our emergency fund. Of all the grantees, 92% are currently being able to continue their work to defend (y)our rights.

Chart showing distribution of emergency support by region

Read more about the Emergency Fund here.

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