Skip to content

Discussions on Environmental Defenders, 29-31 May 2022

There is an inseparable link between human rights and the environment. Environmental defenders are in the front line calling for a more sustainable future for all. Yet still, their activities are being obstructed in Finland and across the world.

Siemenpuu Foundation and KIOS Foundation are organizing two events on the role and challenges of environmental defenders in the end of May.

Phyllis Omido and Iiris Laisi: The Environment and Its Defenders in Danger

Time: Sunday 29 May at 14:30-15:00
Venue: World Village Festival, Tiivistämö, Helsinki & Online (

Kenyan activist Phyllis Omido, dubbed the Erin Brockovich of East Africa, and Finnish Iiris Laisi, an Extinction Rebellion Finland activist, will discuss the role and challenges of environmental activism around the world. What have activists in different countries achieved for the benefit of human rights and the environment? How are their activities being restricted and how can they conquer the obstacles? What can we do to make real changes happen? We will also see a video message from the Indonesian environmental defender Nurain Lapolo.

More information on the event on Siemenpuu’s event page and the facebook event page. Event is co-organised with KIOS and Elokapina (XR Finland)


Human Rights and the Environment – Environmental Defenders on the Frontline

Time: Tuesday 31.5.2022, 9-13:00 (programme 9:30-12:30)
Venue: SOSTE, Jungman-sali, Yliopistonkatu 5 (6th floor), Helsinki.

States should ensure a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment in order to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. States should similarly respect, protect and fulfill human rights in order to ensure a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

In recent years, the recognition of the links between human rights and the environment has been made clearer by the United Nations (UN) human rights bodies and regional human rights treaty bodies and other institutions. The number and scope of international and domestic laws, judicial decisions, and academic studies of the relationship between human rights and the environment are growing rapidly. This includes the recognition of the need for resolute protection of indigenous peoples and environmental human rights defenders. 

In October 2021, the UN Human Rights Council recognised for the first time the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right and that the environment is important for the enjoyment of other human rights (resolution 48/13 (PDF file). The Council called the UN General Assembly to adopt the resolution. Civil society movements have welcomed this recognition. 

What does this landmark decision mean? How can and does the human rights movement use the recognition of the right to a healthy environment as a tool to protect human rights? And what does this right and the mechanisms of the human rights system mean for the work of environmental and indigenous human rights defenders, who are often persecuted for their activism?

How can we make sure that we respect the human rights of all, especially the people in the most vulnerable situations, while we strive for environmental well-being? How can we avoid the pitfalls of “green colonialism” and ensure the respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and marginalised communities?

Speakers include Phyllis Omido and Tom Bicko from CJGEA (Kenya), Shankar Limbu from LAHURNIP (Nepal), and Dorothée Cambou, University of Helsinki, as well as representatives from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Environment, Saami Council, Finnfund, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, Amnesty Finland and Elokapina.

Keynote and discussion titles:

Opening remarks
Keynote: A global human right to a healthy and sustainable environment: From legal consecration to ecological and just transformations
Discussion 1: Right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment
Discussion 2: Indigenous peoples and land rights: challenges and opportunities
Discussion 3: Protection and support for environmental defenders: security issues, challenges and opportunities
Commentary: UN Human Rights Council as a tool. Finnish perspective
Closing remarks

See seminar details on Siemenpuu’s event page and the facebook event page.