The Danger of Defending the Environment in Developing Countries : A structured focused comparison study of Honduras and El Salvador

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för samhällsstudier (SS)

Abstract: The environment is taking a larger part of the debate resulting in the creation of UN declarations, domestic and regional laws, public pressure on companies and politicians to take responsibility, and a greater awareness on our increasingly exploited planet. However, the people who are affected the most, poor and often indigenous people, find themselves in an increasingly dangerous position when they try to defend the planet. Previous research lack understanding on which features that facilitates deadly violence against environmentalists. In contemporary time, three environmentalists per week die when they try to defend the planet from environmental harm, making it more than twice as dangerous as being a journalist. This thesis tries to answer - what explains deadly violence against environmentalists in developing countries by using the method of structured focused comparison (SFC). Honduras is the deadliest country per capita for environmentalists and they will be compared with El Salvador, which does not experience a high degree of deadly violence against environmentalists. The attributes tested are chosen in accordance with the analytical framework of Limited Access Orders (LAO). LAOs are controlled by elites who create rents to maintain their power, hence decreasing elites power by enforcing open access orders (OAO) in LAO can result in increased violence. Honduras and El Salvador’s differences suggest that environmentalists have been subjected to enhanced dangerous circumstances in Honduras than environmentalists in El Salvador and historical conditions have resulted in the protection of the environment in El Salvador by the wider social movement. Earlier research in Honduras has pointed at the importance to decrease corruption in order to decrease violence against environmentalists. However, the theory of LAO suggests that attempts to abolish corruption, increase access, institute democracy or increase rule of law surge violence. In order to limit deadly violence against environmentalists, this study suggests that Honduras focus should be at: prevent expropriation, limit international corporations access on natural resources, attain consent from the local communities before starting projects, require corporations and organizations to publish public environmental assessment reports before projects starts that can degrade the environment and increase focus on the manufacturing sector instead of extraction of natural resources.

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