“Sustainable solutions cannot be created in silos” – Intervention at the 9th EfE Ministerial Conference

“Being able to safely raise our voice for environmental justice, is a right and a must for true progress on sustainable development.” Today, we delivered an intervention during the 9th Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference, stressing the importance of civil society for sustainable development, and the right for Environmental and Human Rights Defenders to raise their voice in safety. Read the full statement below.

“My name is Rebecca Heuvelmans, a young ecofeminist speaking on behalf of Women Engage for a Common Future, part of the European ECO Forum. 

Despite having over 30 years behind the Environment for Europe process and many good decisions taken at 8 previous conferences, grave problems in terms of implementation remain. With biodiversity declining, climate disasters happening and energy prices skyrocketing, there is an urgent need for long-lasting, green and inclusive solutions – This is particularly true for those marginalized groups, including women in all their diversity, minorities and low-income groups, who are hit the hardest by these developments. 

Sustainable solutions cannot be created in silos.

Civil society plays an essential role in enhancing decision-making on the diverse range of topics this process covers, including air pollution, education for sustainable development, waste and water development and climate change. But, we can only operate successfully in the right conditions. 

As representatives of civil society we note with concern that the opportunity for the free and open expression of opinions in many countries in the UNECE region is reducing in a disturbing way. Environmental and Human Rights defenders calling out unsustainable fossil fuel or nuclear energy solutions and opposing infrastructure development, are often at risk of intimidation, harassment, persecution and lawsuitsWe welcome the appointment for the first Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders under the newly created Rapid Response Mechanism under the Aarhus Convention and call upon all governments to support this critically important work.

Being able to safely raise our voice for environmental justice, is a right and a must for true progress on sustainable development. 

We thank the government of Cyprus for their support of the European ECO Forum and the NGO delegation.”