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Centre for Environmental Rights – Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

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Activist Support & Training

Training, networking, enforcing compliance with laws and securing environmental activist spaces.

Overview

The Activist Support & Training programme at the Centre for Environmental Rights aims to support and empower activists, communities and organisations around South Africa who are affected by environmental and climate injustice. AS&T seeks to provide practical and empowering tools to support the environmental and climate justice movement, through training, networking, enforcing compliance with environmental and other laws, and securing environmental activist spaces. AS&T provides enabling mechanisms and spaces for activists to use to realise their constitutional right to an environment not harmful to health and wellbeing.

In South Africa, mining and other polluting industries are major contributors to the economy. They are however also responsible for major pollution and degradation of the environment with serious impacts on the lives and livelihoods of neighbouring communities. Mines and other industries often bypass many of their environmental obligations in the name of economic development.  For many communities, living adjacent to industry means facing debilitating and life threatening impacts such as air pollution, contamination of water sources, health impacts, displacement and relocation, damage to households and food insecurity to mention only a few. Due to South Africa’s history and the societal inequalities that persist, communities throughout South Africa struggle to defend their rights to their land, environment and natural resources. This is especially apparent when communities are faced with new mines or other developments proposed in their communities. Although  companies promise jobs and economic upliftment, rarely do those most affected by a development reap the promised benefits.

The South African environmental legal framework and governance regime is complex. Many different laws apply and the framework is governed by three main national government departments as well as Provincial and municipal governments. Government capacity constraints and inadequate implementation and enforcement of the law by the relevant officials pose a number of challenges for communities, ranging from difficulty accessing relevant information, lack of compliance monitoring, and lack of enforcement action for the violation of their rights.

Despite these difficulties, communities, with very limited resources,  still use different means, to either call for the rehabilitation of their degraded environment, demand to be included in decision-making processes that affect their land and/or fight for the preservation of their natural resources and community wellbeing for themselves and future generations. Unfortunately, the moment communities raise their voices against environmental violations they are often met with threats and intimidation. AS&T exists to work with communities, individual activists, civil society and community-based organisations in navigating and overcoming these issues.