Defending the Earth

Abuses of Human Rights and the Environment

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This report is the result of an unprecedented joint effort between two leading citizen advocacy organizations: a human rights group, Human Rights Watch; and an environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council. As one who has been for 14 years privileged to be involved with both, I have long believed that a cooperative effort such as this one will enhance both causes significantly. Abuses of human rights often exist in tandem with environmental degradation. Suppression of dissent -- often violent -- is frequently employed by governments to silence opposition to harmful political and social policies and development schemes that could not withstand public scrutiny, and to forestall public concern about environmental decay. The case studies in this report demonstrate a linkage between human rights and environmental abuses that is global in scope, occurring in both industrialized and developing countries. Issuing this joint report at the time of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro will focus attention on the relationship, often causal, between human rights and environmental abuses. We also hope that it marks the start of future exchanges between the two groups of advocates, so that both causes will benefit from an expanded constituency for their concerns.

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