212 land and environmental defenders killed in 2019: Global Witness

Published by Brent Patterson on

On July 29, Global Witness released its Defending Tomorrow report documenting the land and environmental defenders killed in 2019.

It reports: “The documented number of lethal attacks against these defenders continues to rise. Again, we are forced to report that this is the highest year ever for killings – 212 were murdered in 2019.” That’s an increase from 164 killings in 2018.

117 land and environmental defenders were killed in countries where PBI accompanies or supports defenders. Divided by country: Colombia (64), Mexico (18), Honduras (14), Guatemala (12), Nicaragua (5), Indonesia (3) and Kenya (1).

Global Witness further observes:

“64 defenders were killed in Colombia in 2019 – that’s more than anywhere else in the world and a shocking 30% of documented killings globally. This is also over a 150% rise on 2018 and the most murders Global Witness has ever recorded in the country. Indigenous groups were particularly at risk – accounting for half the documented killings, despite making up only 4.4% of the population.”

“In Honduras killings rose from four in 2018 to 14 last year, making it the most dangerous country per capita for land and environmental defenders in 2019. It is the country with the greatest percentage increase in lethal attacks against activists.”

“Many of the world’s worst environmental and human rights abuses are driven by the exploitation of natural resources and corruption in the global political and economic system.”

“Mining was still the most culpable industry – connected with the murders of 50 defenders in 2019. Communities opposing carbon intensive oil, gas and coal projects faced continued threats.”

“A growing body of research is highlighting the human rights impacts of large-scale renewable projects – ranging from a lack of consultation to poor waste management.”

“On average, four defenders have been killed every week since December 2015 – the month the Paris Climate agreement was signed.”

“Indigenous peoples are at a disproportionate risk of reprisals. Last year, 40% of murdered defenders belonged to indigenous communities. Between 2015 and 2019 over a third of all fatal attacks have targeted indigenous people – even though indigenous communities make up only 5% of the world’s population.”

“Over 1 in 10 defenders killed were women. Often the backbone of their community, women tend to take on more of the responsibility of looking after children and elderly relatives, on top of trying to earn a living and work as activists. Women who act and speak out may also face gender-specific threats, including sexual violence. If other members of their household are defenders, they can become targeted too.”

Significantly, Global Witness also notes: “Reporting challenges, coupled with the requirement to meet strict verification criteria for recording killings, mean that our figures are almost certainly an underestimate.”

To read the full 52-page Defending Tomorrow report – which includes a note on the criminalization of Wet’suwet’en land defenders in Canada, a series of recommendations, and an acknowledgement of Peace Brigades International – please click here.

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