Global Witness: 200 land and environmental defenders killed worldwide in 2021

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Decade of Defiance, the latest global analysis report from Global Witness, documents that 200 land and environmental defenders were killed worldwide in 2021 and that 1,733 have been killed over the past 10 years (2012 to 2021).

It specifies that in 2021, 54 were killed in Mexico, 33 in Colombia, 8 in Honduras, 4 in Guatemala and 1 in Kenya. That means 100 land and environmental defenders were killed last year in countries where Peace Brigades International (PBI) is physically present.

Fifteen defenders were also killed in Nicaragua. PBI has a team in Costa Rica who support Nicaraguan human rights defenders in exile.

Top findings

Among the report’s top findings:

– “Global Witness recorded that 200 Land and Environmental Defenders were killed in 2021 – nearly four people a week.”

– “These lethal attacks continue to take place in the context of a wider range of threats against defenders who are being targeted by government, business and other non-state actors with violence, intimidation, smear campaigns and criminalization.”

– “This is happening across every region of the world and in almost every sector. Mexico was the country with the highest recorded number of killings, with defenders killed every month, totalling 54 killings in 2021, up from 30 the previous year.”

– “Over 40% of those killed [in Mexico] were Indigenous people, and over a third of the total were forced disappearances, including at least eight members of the Yaqui community.”

– “Where a sector could be identified, just over a quarter of lethal attacks were reportedly linked to resource exploitation – logging, mining and large-scale agribusiness – and hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure. However, this figure is likely to be higher.”

– “In 2021 the disproportionate number of attacks against Indigenous peoples continued once again, with over 40% of all fatal attacks targeting Indigenous people, despite them only making up 5% of the world’s population.”

– “Around 1 in 10 of the defenders recorded killed in 2021 were women, nearly two-thirds of whom were Indigenous.”

1,733 killed over 10 years

The report also notes: “Global Witness started reporting on the killings of Land and Environmental Defenders in 2012. Since then, 1733 defenders have been killed trying to protect their land and resources: that’s an average of one defender killed approximately every two days over ten years.”

In countries where PBI is present, 322 defenders were killed in Colombia over the past decade, 154 in Mexico, 117 in Honduras, 80 in Guatemala, and 6 in Kenya. Fifty-seven defenders were killed in Nicaragua over this same period.

Global Witness has also noted the death of Regan Russell in Canada on June 19, 2020. She died in Burlington, Ontario, on June 19, 2020. The 65-year-old activist was run over by a transport truck in front of Fearman’s Pork Plant as she attempted to give water to the pigs in the trailer of that truck before they were driven into the slaughterhouse.

Wet’suwet’en territory, Canada

The report also includes a three-page (pages 20-22) feature on the Wet’suwet’en struggle against the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on their unceded territory in northern British Columbia, Canada.

Among the recommendations related to this struggle, Global Witness notes: “The Canadian government should immediately halt the construction and suspend all permits and approvals for its construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in the traditional and unceded lands and territories of the Wet’suwet’en people, until they grant their free, prior and informed consent, following the full and adequate discharge of the duty to consult.”


The Global Witness report also includes a two-page (pages 31-32) from Colombia environmental defender Oscar Sampayo who says: “I have been actively opposing oil extraction in the Magdalena Medio region for years. The interests of the big oil companies have ended up prevailing over the lives of local communities, who suffer serious environmental and social impacts, as well as a wide range of human rights violations.”

The report concludes with 5 recommendations (on page 36) for governments and businesses to change this ongoing situation.

You can read the full 48-page report by clicking here.

For media coverage on this report please see the BBC article: Over 1,700 environment activists killed in decade – report. The Guardian also reports More than 1,700 environmental activists murdered in the past decade – report and the Associated Press reports Report: 200 environmental activists killed globally in 2021.

To help amplify this report, please retweet this Global Witness tweet:

PBI-UK tweet:

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