2019 was the deadliest year on record for land and environmental defenders world-wide, with the NGO Global Witness documenting 212 killed—more than four per week—in its annual report issued last week.
The organization said 40% of those killed were Indigenous people, even though they represent only 5% of the global population.
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The campaigners died “defending land and water resources from mining, agribusiness, and fossil fuel interests,” CNN reports. The total count “represents a significant spike from 164 killings in 2018, and the true number is likely far higher,” since cases “often go undocumented.”
“Agribusiness and oil, gas, and mining have been consistently the biggest drivers of attacks against land and environmental defenders—and they are also the industries pushing us further into runaway climate change through deforestation and increasing carbon emissions,” Global Witness campaigner Rachel Cox said in a release. “If we really want to make plans for a green recovery that puts the safety, health, and well-being of people at its heart, we must tackle the root causes of attacks on defenders, and follow their lead in protecting the environment and halting climate breakdown.”
The report cites Colombia as the deadliest country for campaigners last year, with 64 killed. The Philippines was next on the list, with 43, followed by Brazil, with 24.
“Almost 90% of the killings took place in the Amazon region,” CNN says. “Seven of the top ten worst affected nations are in Latin America, where more than two-thirds of total killings took place. The region has consistently been the worst affected since Global Witness started gathering data in 2012.”
Honduras saw the biggest percentage increase in killings between 2018 and 2019, from four to 14. Logging-related murders increased 85%, to 24.
“Mining was the deadliest sector, with 50 people killed, followed by agribusiness, with 34,” the U.S. TV network adds. “Asia was a hotspot for attacks related to agribusiness, representing 85% of the global total,” with 90% of those centred in the Philippines.
“Many campaigners are also silenced by arrests, lawsuits, threats and violent attacks,” CNN says, and “female defenders face a specific set of threats. They “represent 10% of those killed in 2019, but they also face smear campaigns using sexist or sexual content, as well as sexual violence.”