2017 is the year with the highest recorded deaths of land and environmental defenders, while agribusiness is shown to be the business sector most linked to killings.
- Annual figures from Global Witness show that in 2017, at least 207 land and environmental activists were killed in 22 countries; almost four people per week, making it theworst year on record.
- The report reveals a large increase in murders linked to consumer products. Brutal attacks against those who defend their land from destructive agriculture (for example, land grabbing for oil palm, used in everyday products such as soap and coffee) are increasing.
- This report critically urges the government and businesses to take action to end attacks and support defenders, with spokespersons including Yuri Herrera, Margaret Atwood, Lily Cole, George Monbiot and Ben Fogle speaking out against of the murders.
Global Witness reveals that at least 207 land and environmental defenders were killed last year - indigenous leaders, community activists and environmentalists killed while trying to protect their homes and communities from mining, agribusiness and other destructive businesses.
The global total is probably much higher, considering the serious limitations in terms of available data. The murder is the most egregious example of a series of tactics used to silence defenders, including death threats, arrests, intimidation, cyber attacks, sexual assault and lawsuits.
The report"At what price?" exposes that agribusiness has overtaken mining as the business most associated with these attacks.
The attacks include the murder of Hernán Bedoya in Colombia, who was shot 14 times by a paramilitary group for demonstrating against oil palm and banana plantations on land stolen from his community; the massacre, carried out by the army, of eight villagers in the Philippines, who opposed a coffee plantation on their land; and violent attacks by Brazilian farmers, who, using machetes and rifles, seriously injured 22 members of the indigenous people of Gamela, some with their hands cut off.
The report relates this violence to the products we find in our cupboards: large-scale agriculture, mining, illegal hunting, logging, all produce components and ingredients of supermarket products, such as palm oil for shampoo, soy for meat and wood for furniture. .
The report also reveals that some governments and companies are complicit in the killings, and Global Witness calls for urgent action, if the trend is to be reversed. In addition to being part of the problem, governments and companies can be part of the solution. They must tackle the root causes of attacks; for example, ensuring that communities can say “no” to projects on their land, such as mining; support and protect defenders at risk and ensure that justice is served for those who suffer violence.
Ben Leather, Campaigns Officer for Global Witness, said:
“Local activists are being assassinated, while governments and companies prioritize making quick profits over human life. Many of the products that emerge from this bloodshed can be found on supermarket shelves. Courageous communities facing corrupt officials, destructive industries, and environmental devastation are brutally silenced. Enough already.
“Governments, businesses and investors have the duty and power to support and protect defenders at risk, and to ensure accountability when attacks occur. But more importantly, they can prevent these threats from emerging in the first place by listening to local communities, respecting their rights, and ensuring that businesses operate responsibly.
“Despite the adversities it faces, the global community of environmental and land defenders is not going to disappear; it's only getting stronger. We invite consumers to join us in this campaign alongside defenders, taking their fight to the corridors where power moves and to the boardrooms of corporations. We will make sure their voices are heard. And we will be vigilant to ensure that defenders, their land and the environment on which we all depend are duly protected ”.
Other key findings include:
- Brazil recorded more murders than any other country in history, with 57 homicides in 2017.
- 48 people were killed in the Philippines in 2017, the highest number ever documented in an Asian country.
- 60% of the murders recorded took place in Latin America. In Mexico and Peru, homicides increased dramatically, from three to 15 and from two to eight, respectively. Nicaragua had the highest number of homicidesper capita, with four murders.
- For the first time, agribusiness was the bloodiest sector, with at least 46 murders linked to this industry. Mining-related killings increased from 33 to 40, and 23 killings were associated with logging.
- Tackling illegal hunters became even more dangerous, with a record 23 people killed for standing up against the illegal wildlife trade, mostly rangers in Africa.
- Global Witness linked government security forces with 53 of last year's homicides, and non-state actors, such as criminal gangs, with 90 killings.
- There was a sharp decline in killings of land and environmental defenders in Honduras, although, in general, repression by civil society worsened.
- In recent years there has been a greater recognition and action on the part of governments and companies; But much more needs to be done urgently to address this problem.
See the full report here: