Alfred Brownell7.20.18 — Alfred Brownell, a Distinguished Scholar in Residence in Northeastern University School of Law's Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE), has been invited by The Carter Center to attend its upcoming Human Rights Defenders Forum, “Restoring Faith in Freedom.” One of Africa's leading environmental and human rights defenders, Brownell has been in residence at Northeastern since in 2016 — he and his family were forced to flee his native Liberia after an attempt on his life in response to his leadership in protecting community land rights.

As a founder, CEO and lead campaigner at Green Advocates, Liberia's first public-interest environmental law and human rights organization, Brownell has worked for almost 20 years as researcher, legal counsel and advocate for impoverished rural communities to ensure them a voice in decisions affecting their natural resources. In his field of research, Brownell has established the serious human rights impacts of large agribusiness activities, including the destruction of sacred sites, burial grounds, farmlands, forests and wetlands that serve as a primary source of food for local communities. He has also documented the deleterious impact on food security and on traditional subsistence farming practices prompted by the introduction of monocrop agriculture.

His most recent victory came just days ago, following his seven-year struggle to stop the destruction of the tropical forest lands of poor communities and indigenous people in Liberia. The Appeal Panel of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) denied Golden Agric Resources appeal against complaints Brownell and his colleagues filed against this company in 2012 on behalf of communities and indigenous peoples in Liberia. “We have scored another big victory against the massive multi-billion-dollar oil palm giant, Golden Agric Resources,” said Brownell. “This is a massive victory for our communities, indigenous peoples and the Upper Guinean forests — the lungs of West and North Africa. Even though they threatened us, plotted assassination attempts against us and masterminded our exile from Liberia, we have shown them we can still fight and win,” said Brownell.

Previously, Brownell co-authored Liberia's first comprehensive framework environmental legislation and legislation related to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and Liberia's progressive land rights policy, which establishes customary land as a category of land ownership with the same status as private property rights. He is also widely recognized for his leadership in the field of natural resource rights. The Carter Center participates in hosting Human Rights Defenders Policy Forums, which bring together human rights activists from a number of countries. President and Mrs. Carter, the UN high commissioner for human rights and the special representative on human rights defenders have keynoted these conferences. “Restoring Faith in Freedom,” will be held at the center on July 21-24, 2018. Topics will include economic and social rights, building faith in institutions, strengthening the social contract and the recent backlash again human rights defenders. The forum also will showcase the experiences of the courageous women and men on the front lines of the fight for human rights.

“It is an honor to accept the invitation of the Carter Center,” said Brownell. “The situation and circumstances of human rights defenders are now, more than ever, extremely critical. As a defender, who had to flee Liberia with my family because of my work trying to stop the grabbing of land from customary communities and the destruction of last vestiges of the Upper Guinean tropical forest in Liberia by large oil palm corporation, I have experienced firsthand, the threat, intimidation, stigmatization and assassination attempts. We desperately need a strong voice to stop the mass murder of defenseless defenders across the globe. It's a slaughter, and the world is looking the other way, especially for people who are defending and protecting the planet. The mass murder of four human rights defenders a week is totally unacceptable. We need global leadership and a champion to get businesses leaders and government to stop this carnage. President Carter is a godsend.”

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