In a year of social, political, and economic upheaval, 2021 changed us as we changed the world.
Together and apart, we endured personal and global losses. We grieved and raged at the unequal impact of the pandemic as it disproportionately killed people of color around the globe; at the escalating assassinations of human rights and environmental defenders; at the devastating impacts of climate change-fueled emergencies, from wildfires to hurricanes to floods to droughts to freezing cold; at the increasing toxic burden borne by waterways, wildlife, and frontline communities; at the impacts of past and present forms of colonialism and state violence, particularly those felt by BIPOC communities all around the world.
With ever-increasing clarity, we know that each of these injustices are deeply interconnected in their root causes: racism, colonialism, systemic inequality, corporate impunity, authoritarianism, rising nationalism, and bigotry.
That’s why the solutions must be intersectional as well, because justice is all-inclusive. When we fight for environmental justice, we fight for racial justice, for Indigenous sovereignty, for the right to health and a healthy planet.
And when I reflect on the work of CIEL over the last year, I feel a surge of pride and purpose. Despite spending over 20 months physically apart, we fostered new forms of resilience, strength, determination, and connection. As an organization, we found new ways of building relationships and advocating; we built better ways to communicate with one another across offices (and our homes); we designed more strategic legal interventions suited to new settings and technologies; and we made sure our partners around the globe had access to those settings and technologies to reach decision makers directly.
I think of the incredible work of the last twelve months across our three programs: We supported frontline partners — from Uganda and Namibia to Argentina — in a growing and interconnected movement fighting fossil fuel expansion, with recent legal victories in Guyana.
We united a thousand organizations from around the world to call for the United Nations to unequivocally recognize the right to a clean, safe, healthy, and sustainable environment. We equipped decisionmakers with novel legal arguments to prevent toxic waste dumping in the Global South.
Our analysis led to the European Union adopting landmark new regulations to limit endocrine disrupting chemicals. Our pilot forest protection projects in Malawi and Thailand detailed how to reduce illegal logging. And we expanded access to participation for Indigenous leaders in Panama to be able to advocate on their own behalf.
Every day, we showed up for our partners, for democracy, for justice, for human rights, and for the environment, in spite of the unprecedented challenges.
I am more convinced than ever that CIEL is critical in the transformation ahead. We are connecting movements and partners around the globe. We are bridging issues to build more robust, strategic, and unified campaigns. We are developing and deploying innovative legal strategies to test the law and make it stronger and more inclusive. We are using strategic communications to reframe narratives and win the public debate. We are taking our lead from partners on the frontlines and ensuring they can advocate effectively for themselves. And we are transforming moments of progress into true momentum towards the just, sustainable future we are building, together.