Towards an Environmental Rights Agreement in Africa: The ERA Initiative

In the wake of the climate emergency, environmental rights are critical tools for ensuring African communities are not left out of the environmental and development decisions that will transform the continent in the coming decades. A regional environmental rights instrument offers the opportunity to safeguard Indigenous, Land and Environmental Defenders (ILEDs) and guarantee a just transition.


Environmental rights ensure that all people, including those living in poverty, have a voice and play an active role shaping their future, and can live and work in a clean and healthy environment. These rights are a counterweight against discriminatory practices and destructive, unsustainable projects that harm vulnerable groups, destroy the environment, and lead to environmental and land conflicts. While there has been an increase in the legal understanding and recognition of the importance of human rights and the environment across the continent, implementation and enforcement has not been as robust. Challenges stem from weak institutions and capacity deficiencies, lack of political incentives, and insufficient public awareness on how to effectively make use of these rights. The Advancing Environmental Democracy in Africa Initiative dubbed Environmental Rights Agreement in Africa (ERA) led by a consortium of African and global civil society partners is cultivating momentum for the development and ratification of a legally binding agreement on environmental rights in Africa. This initiative is aiming to build a movement of civil society organizations, governments, and multilateral institutions to foster political support, outline the feasibility and structure and support the initial steps needed to define and adopt an Environmental Rights Treaty to protect human rights defenders and environmental human rights.

An Opportunity

A legally binding agreement provides a concrete pathway for environmental and climate justice, protection of rights, and participatory and inclusive decision-making needed to ensure a just transition that builds economic property for all Africans. ALLIED’s role: The Alliance for Land, Indigenous, and Environmental Defenders (ALLIED), played a critical coordinating and supporting role around the passage and ratification of the Escazú Agreement including the first of its kind environmental defender provisions. ALLIED is eager to offer a similar role supporting development of a similar agreement in Africa. Many of the African groups involved in the environmental rights initiative are also working directly with ALLIED creating opportunities for synergy. ALLIED is helping to coordinate the civil society network and provide guidance on how best to involve land, Indigenous, and environmental defenders.

How to Support/Contribute
– Support  the development of a roadmap for action on environmental rights: Through communications and engagement strategies, ERA will mobilize influential champions, parliamentarians and advocates from regional institutions, civil society, government, and local communities, to create a roadmap for action on environmental rights.

– Be part of the civil society network: In addition to the core team and regional focal point structure ERA will expand and strengthen civil society engagement focused on environmental rights and the need for a binding agreement as a core requirement for all just transition solutions in Africa.

 – Provide financial support to assessment case studies in 6 additional countries in Africa: Rapid assessments, based on the methodology previous designed and used by TAI Africa partners, will be conducted in at least 6 additional countries. This additional evidence-based research would help establish a baseline of progress on environmental rights which could help with momentum for the regional approach. The additional countries will be drawn from the North Africa region with at least one additional country for the South, West and East.

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