According to a new report, more than 1,700 murders of environmental activists have been reported in the past decade, an average of one every two days.
Between 2012 and 2021, at least 1,733 land and environmental defenders were killed by hitmen, organized crime groups and their own governments, according to data from Global Witness, with Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines, Mexico and Honduras among the deadliest countries.
The NGO has published its report on the killing of land and environmental defenders around the world every year since 2012, following the killing of Cambodian environmentalist Chut Vutty, who was working with Global Witness CEO Mike Davis to investigate illegal logging. In 2020, a record 227 people were killed despite the pandemic.
“Vatti made us face many questions. What was the global picture, what were the consequences of such attacks and what could be done to prevent them?” Davis wrote in the report.
These killings have disproportionately affected low-income countries and indigenous communities; Despite comprising only 5% of the world’s population, 39% of victims were from this population.
Mining and quarrying industries, logging and agribusiness were the most common causes of carnage when a cause was known. The report’s authors warn that these figures are likely to be significant underestimates and do not capture the full scale of the problem, with ecosystem deaths often critical to averting the worst effects of the climate crisis.
200 people were killed in 2021 Eight park rangers in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who face additional threats from oil and gas extraction, environmental activist Joanna Stutchbury, who was shot outside her home in Kenya, and Angel Miro Cartagena, who died. in Colombia and was one of 50 small farmers killed last year.
In June this year, Dom Phillips, a journalist who has written extensively for the Guardian and the Observer, and Bruno Pereira, a Brazilian expert on uncontacted tribes, were murdered in the Javari Valley in the Brazilian Amazon after going missing. Phillips was working on a book on sustainable development called How to Save the Amazon, and Pereira was assisting him with interviews. His murder is under investigation.
“It’s important to portray these victims as the real people they are. It’s easy for me. All my life I have been surrounded by land and environment defenders and indeed I am one of them,” Indian environmentalist Dr Vandana Shiva wrote in the report’s foreword.
“We’re not just in a climate emergency. We are on the cusp of the sixth mass extinction, and these rescuers are among the few standing in the way. They do not deserve protection only for fundamental moral reasons. The future of our species and our planet depends on it,” she said.
The report notes that there have been some significant wins for environmental campaigners. In South Africa last year, indigenous communities along the wild coast of South Africa’s Eastern Cape won a legal victory over Shell, forcing the company to halt oil exploration in whale-breeding grounds. The decision was upheld earlier this month.
In May this year, communities on Indonesia’s Sangihe Island won a case against a Canadian-backed company planning to mine for gold on their island after an earlier challenge was thrown out on technical grounds.
“While the killing numbers are high, one thing I took away from doing this research is that environmental defenders have won some significant victories against large multinational corporations over the years,” said Ali Hines, author of the report. Evangelist at Global Witness.
Between 2012 and 2021, more than two-thirds of the killings of people trying to protect forests, rivers and other ecosystems took place in Latin America, with 342 in Brazil and 322 in Colombia. 154 were killed in Mexico and 117 in Honduras. The Philippines was another country of concern, with 270 murders.
“It’s a global problem but it’s happening almost exclusively in the global South,” Haynes said. “Corruption and inequality are two key factors for killings. For example, in the land titling process, investment deals may take place between companies and corrupt officials. Defenders trying to get justice are sometimes bribed to stand against judges. This leads to the third factor, which is the high rate of conviction. Cases are rarely investigated reliably, never mind bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The report calls on governments to create safe civil spaces for environmental defenders and promote legal accountability of companies, which will help ensure zero-tolerance for violence against activists.
The Colombian and Filipino governments did not respond to The Guardian’s requests for comment on the high rate of murders. The Brazilian government said environmental defenders and journalists, including journalists, were protected by the national program, which could join voluntarily.