On July 14, 2021, Digital Democracy along with co-hosts Alianza Ceibo, Amazon Frontlines & Oxfam hosted a global launch event for the Earth Defenders Toolkit, a collaborative space for earth defenders and their allies.
This two-hour virtual event brought together over 160 participants from around the world, the majority identifying as earth defenders, to share stories of work they are doing on the frontlines of environmental defense and highlight new tools and strategies that help put power in the hands of local communities.
Featuring the voices and videos of our local partners, the event focused on the breadth of resources within the new toolkit, including a library of training materials on a range of topics–from specific tool onboarding to project design, a tool finder to help communities access technologies best suited to their needs, case studies, and a community forum for connecting and troubleshooting to help strengthen the global network of earth defenders.
The excitement around, and need for this resource was palpable throughout the event: Indigenous territories cover 28% of Earth’s terrestrial surface; account for 40% of global protected areas; and overlap with areas that contain 80% of the planet’s biodiversity (Garnett et al, 2018). Despite their critical role in protecting some of the earth’s most important ecosystems, earth defenders remain under threat. In 2020 alone, at least 331 earth defenders were killed globally (Front Line Defenders, 2021).
Despite this, frontline groups around the world are risking their lives to protect their territories, and they need support to access the best tools and methods for documenting and responding to threats. The Earth Defenders Toolkit was developed to respond to the most critical needs voiced by frontline groups.
The toolkit prioritizes co-creation and has already grown with ideas gathered from participants during the launch event itself and the many conversations that have followed.
Launch Event Highlights
The event began with welcoming introductions from Maria Lya Ramos, board member of Digital Democracy and Associate Director of the Extractive Industries Global Program at Oxfam; Norma Nenquimo of Alianza Ceibo; Kate Horner, Deputy Director of Amazon Frontlines and Vilas Dhar, president of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation.
Here are some key takeaways:
“In my years of working with communities to challenge extractive activities taking place in their ecosystems, open source tools have been extremely valuable,” Maria Lya Ramos.
“Earth Defenders Toolkit is a fundamental tool for the protection of territory in different nationalities of the Amazon and for the whole world,” Norma Nenquimo.
“What we know for sure is that technology will only benefit everyone when communities can use these tools. It’s not enough to just have access to products - communities must be the cocreators, designers and implementers of their own technology solutions,” Vilas Dhar.
Participation and Engagement
Early on, participants were invited to visit this jamboard, and identify their position on the map with an icon. Roughly half of the participants were from global south regions (Latin America, Africa, and Asia/Pacific).
Stay tuned next week for a blog about the second part of the event that delves into the testimonies shared by partners from around the world and highlights ideas from participants during and after the event that will inform the toolkit moving forward.