Against the backdrop of the challenges faced by African Environmental Defenders, and the dwindling civic spaces in most African countries, Natural Justice and partners have expressed their commitment towards protecting environmental and land defenders.
To achieve this goal, the NGOs established the ‘African Environmental Defenders Emergency Fund’ to support environmental and land defenders who find themselves in emergency situations due to the nature of their work.
Starting from 2019, Natural Justice will administer this fund on behalf of all partners, in conjunction with a Committee. The Committee’s core mandate is to carry out various responsibilities under the fund, including making decisions on which cases qualify for the provision of emergency support.
Partners include the International Land Coalition, the ICCA Consortium, and the African Activists for Climate Justice coalition partners: Pan-African Climate Justice Activists (PACJA), Oxfam Novib, FEMNET, and African Youth Commission.
The purpose of this fund is to promote respect for and enhance the protection of African Environmental Defenders working on land and environmental issues, by providing urgent emergency support to defenders throughout Africa.
The nature of the support provided by the Fund will be in the form of a grant to oversee an emergency or risky situation connected to a defender’s activism or actions. This grant will cover any immediate and short-term transitional costs arising from the emergency situation before the defender identifies a more stable source of support. Some of the costs that can be catered for by this fund include:
Urgent and short-term legal assistance
For environmental and land defenders who are either threatened with arrest, arbitrarily arrested, detained, maliciously prosecuted or summoned by government authorities, this Fund can be used to cover the cost of legal representation to secure the defender’s freedom when the full trial is going on. The goal is to prevent any imminent or continued human rights abuses from occurring during the full trial process. This could include: bail/bond; the costs of representation by a lawyer where the defender is summoned by the authorities; temporary injunctions; conservatory orders where there is threatened or actual forced evictions; anticipatory bail for defenders who are apprehensive that they might be arrested or re-arrested. In such cases, it must be demonstrated that this is the most effective preventive measure against a clear, direct and imminent threat among other alternatives.
It should be noted that legal costs for longer term litigation, such as disputes regarding the determination of title to land, cannot be covered by this Fund.
Cost of bail/bond in exceptional circumstances
Where a defender has secured bail/bond but for some reason is unable to raise the amounts required, this Fund can cover the cost of bail/bond in certain circumstances to free the defender from custody during the period of trial. Applications for this type of support will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the facts and evidence presented by the applicant.
Urgent medical help
Environmental Defenders who, in the course of their work, sustain injuries or become critically ill as a consequence of any forms of physical violence propagated against them, can be supported by the Fund. In this instance, the Fund can provide assistance to the Defender by covering the cost of medical services and treatment. Psychosocial support may also be provided where it is necessary for enhancing recovery from a traumatizing experience or enhancing their emotional wellbeing.
Temporary relocation costs
Relocation becomes necessary where a Defender faces a threat of violation of their rights or risks being exposed to other types of danger by his/her continued presence at a particular place or territory. This Fund can cater for any costs incidental to the relocation for the entire period during which the threat persists.
The cost of hiring private security for the defender in exceptional circumstances
Where a defender fears that their life is in danger, they can apply for funds to hire private security for a short period of time. Applications for this type of support will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the facts and evidence presented by the applicant.
Expenses related to the installation of security infrastructure in exceptional circumstance
The Fund can cover an application to procure security infrastructure such as CCTV cameras provided that adequate justification is given on how this will help overcome the emergency situation. This may include reference from a tech specialist on the effectiveness of such infrastructure. Due to the high costs of security infrastructure, it must be clear from the application that this is the best way to secure a defender, that the request is justified by a third party and that the budget is provided by a service provider.
This Fund CANNOT support other types of costs not related to an emergency such as:
Maintenance and current administrative or office expenses.
Human Rights programmes that are not related to a specific and contingent situation of violation of rights.
Emergency related to natural disasters.
The cost of applying to become a citizen of another country.
Any other costs which the Committee feels is not an emergency.
Any person is eligible to apply for a grant if the applicant:-
Is a citizen of any African country or a person legally residing or working in any African country;
Is an active frontline land and environmental rights defender working on issues related to land rights, environmental and climate justice, including but not limited to rights over natural resources, land or environmental conflicts, land grabbing and land reform;
Is facing an imminent threat or harm due to the nature of his/her work as a land and environmental defender; AND
Has not secured any other kind of support from another entity, organization or person to support him/her through the emergency situation.
Once an application is submitted to the Fund, the AED team undertakes due diligence verifications, including on background information, quotations and with referees. This may take up to 5 days depending on the information provided by the applicant. To expedite this process, we recommend that clear and detailed supporting documents are provided (e.g. court or police documents, newspaper articles or reports, registration details of the organization supporting the application, clear and verifiable quotations of expenditure) and that the applicant and/or supporting organization is available to communicate with the AED Team when required. Once the verification process is completed, the application is provided to the AED Committee and a decision is made within 48 hours. All decisions of the Committee are guided by a set of rules of procedure. Please note that due to the number of applications received and the requirement to undertake a rigorous verification process there may be delays in the application process.
Generally, although the Committee shall be guided by a set of rules of procedure, their decisions shall be based on a case-by-case basis. The Committee shall, however, ensure that quick decisions are made within 48 hours.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.