(As Prepared)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MEDINA: Thank you Uzra, Darren, and Erin for the warm welcome.

Douglas has already skillfully described threats to civil society and Lifeline’s response.

Before Danya introduces the three environmental defenders and lawyers who are doing the hard work that we are all here to support, I’d like to briefly describe the U.S. commitment to protecting environmental defenders.

As the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, I lead a team of 230 diplomats, experts, and scientists who help advance critical priorities that are a part of my mandate.

First, we work to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Second, we support a global goal of conserving at least 30 percent of land and waters by 2030.

And third, we work to unite the world to reduce rising levels of pollution, particularly air and plastic pollution, which are choking and drowning our planet.

To achieve success in these important and urgent priorities, the United States consistently advocates for strong multi-stakeholder engagement, including from civil society organizations and environmental defenders.  Their engagement is vital to finding solutions that are sustainable and effective.

I have great respect and appreciation for environmental defenders because I’ve seen first-hand the bravery and critical impact they make.

Environmental defenders come from all backgrounds and are found in many communities around the world.

Many defenders are working to combat the climate crisis and protect resources vital to that fight.

Many also work on addressing the challenges of air, soil, and water pollution in their communities.

A high percentage of environmental defenders come from Indigenous and historically underserved and underrepresented communities.

Many defenders are young people and women, who face greater threats of physical violence and assault.

And most environmental defenders fall into multiple categories.

The threat against environmental defenders is severe and serious, and too often, they are not aware that they can turn to an initiative like Lifeline for support.

I am hopeful that this discussion today can change that reality so that environmental defenders no longer feel isolated when they stand up to powerful, wealthy, and often criminal actors.

The United States supports preserving and expanding the space for environmental defenders to act.  Their voices benefit all of us.

For more than five years, my bureau has led an informal U.S. government working group with more than one thousand officials from across 20 federal government agencies.

The working group meets regularly to monitor environmental defender cases, engage stakeholders, and inform broader policy and programmatic work.

This work has benefited greatly from regular discussions with CSOs that are a part of the Lifeline NGO Consortium.

In June, during the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, a U.S. proposal resulted in the first-ever commitment by all 33 governments to improve protections for environmental defenders.

We are counting on CSOs to hold governments accountable.

In July, the United States joined 160 UN member states to give moral and political support on a resolution on a right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

Similarly, we are working with the government of Egypt to encourage it to support civil society and freedom of expression during COP27 in November.

Given the increasing number and level of threats to the environment and environmental defenders, there is more work to be done.

I am happy to announce that my colleagues in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, consistent with the U.S. commitment to support environmental defenders, plan to stand up two new programs that aim to enhance and strengthen the capacity of these defenders, including from Indigenous communities, in Africa and Latin America.

It is the United States’ view that the most effective way for governments to foster a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is to adopt concrete domestic laws that protect the environment and provide access to information, allow for public participation in decision-making, and provide access to justice in environmental matters, and then to implement and enforce these legal provisions.

We look forward to continuing this dialogue with Lifeline donor governments and CSO partners and stand ready to work together to identify practical ways to improve access to information, allow for public participation in decision-making, and provide access to justice on environmental matters.

And now, I’ll turn the floor to Danya, who will introduce three environmental defenders and lawyers.

Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future