Even before the COVID-19 crisis began, attacks against human rights defenders had reached alarming levels around the world, especially for those who work on land and environmental issues. The attacks — which include killings and other tactics designed to threaten, criminalize and stigmatize — have had a chilling effect on civil society, while allowing powerful political and economic actors to harm their fellow citizens with almost total impunity. Governments rarely investigate and prosecute these cases.

EarthRights International, which works globally to support land and environmental defenders, has prepared this report in conjunction with the Defending Land and Environmental Defenders Coalition.1 While our coalition’s goal is to protect those who work on land and environmental issues, many of the threats that we see — and the solutions — apply to a broader range of human rights defenders. Accordingly, the scope of this report examines U.S. embassy support for human rights defenders broadly.