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Working with environmental defenders to protect their rights, resources, and livelihoods.

An earth rights defender is someone who, individually or collectively, promotes human and environmental rights — “earth rights.” These include our right to food and clean water and our right to a healthy and safe environment. It also includes the corresponding rights that enable us to protect our environments, such as the right to speak out and act to protect our lands and livelihoods and the right to participate in the development decisions that affect us.

As democratic norms retreat and corrupt corporate interests become increasingly dominant, global civic space is shrinking worldwide. Deep-rooted corruption has become the “operating system” in countries where governmental institutions elevate the needs of corporations and financial institutions over the people. Threats against earth rights defenders come in many forms, but they are often driven by corporations and financial institutions seeking to control land and natural resources.

As the global movement to save the planet from the worst effects of climate change intensifies, communities and activists on the front lines of opposition to fossil fuels and agribusiness are coming under increasing pressure and attack. Hundreds of such people are murdered each year for defending their land and the environment.

EarthRights works with frontline communities, providing legal defense to earth rights defenders who have been criminalized, physically attacked, abused, or otherwise prevented from protecting their communities. We proactively address the root causes of attacks on defenders, including corruption and irresponsible land and fossil fuel development and repression from security forces, while seeking to strengthen policies to protect earth rights defenders and civic space.


Increase legal protections for earth rights defenders in the U.S., Amazon, and Mekong regions while reducing criminalization and attacks against them.


See how we use legal cases, policy reform, training, and legal advocacy tools to protect individuals, communities, and organizations who step forward to defend human rights and the environment.

Around the world, there are people who stand between the world’s most powerful corporations and the world’s most valuable natural resources. The threats that earth rights defenders face are connected–but so are the solutions. Read the report.
In December 2018, Energy Transfer Partners sued Krystal Two Bulls, a prominent Indigenous activist in the Standing Rock protests, alleging that her “calls to action” opposing the controversial pipeline amounted to “racketeering.” Read about the case.
At the EarthRights School we train human rights and environmental activists from across the Mekong region. Once they join our alumni network, many of these students go on to lead their communities in fighting human rights and environmental abuses. See more.
Thirty-three farmers from near the Thilawa Special Economic Zone in Myanmar are facing criminal trespass charges for defending their land rights by continuing to farm their land in the face of illegal attempts to seize it from them. Read about the case.


The strategic plan presents our vision of a world in which the worst impacts of climate change are averted, earth rights defenders are able to effectively carry out their work, and corporations are held accountable for the harms they cause to communities and the environment. See more.