Sharp rise in environmental killings as pressure for resources grows

Environmental Killings

Report warns that environmental killings are on the rise as pressure on natural resources grows. Courtesy of: Global Witness, 2014

“Never has it been more important to protect the environment and never has it been so deadly.”

That’s the key finding of a new report (pdf) from London based Global Witness that as competition for natural resources intensifies so do the threats of those people trying to protect them.

It found killings of people protecting the environment and rights to land increased sharply over the last decade – with three times as many deaths in 2012 than 10 years previously.

At least 908 people were killed in 35 countries between 2002 and 2013, because of their work on environment and land issues. 11 other have been forcibly disappeared and are presumed dead.

Beyond these killings lie a wide range of non-fatal threats including intimidation, violence and others, not recorded in the report.

Global Witness found an environment and land activist had been killed on average at least once a week during this time period, while in the last four years this has doubled to an average two a week.

No fortnight has passed without a fatality.

environmental killings

Source: Global Witness, 2014

2012 was the worst year so far, with 147 killings – nearly three times the amount in 2002.

Brazil is the most dangerous country for environmental defender, with 448 of the killings, taking place in the country.

On such killing was that of activist José Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva were shot dead in the Brazilian town of Nova Ipixuna in the northeast Amazon state of Para.

They were murdered by masked gunmen, after previously receiving deaths threats.

The problem remains acute across large parts of Latin America and South East Asia, with 107 killings in Honduras and 67 in the Philippines.

Perhaps the most shocking finding of the report is the scale of impunity for these crimes.

Of the 908 killings, only 10 perpetrators are known to have been convicted.

That’s just over 1% of the overall incidence of killings.

Environmental killings

Source: Global Witness, 2014

Oliver Courtney of Global Witness said:

This shows it has never been more important to protect the environment and it has never been more deadly. There can be few starker or more obvious symptoms of global environmental crisis than a dramatic upturn in killings of ordinary people defending the rights of their land or environment. Yet this rapidly worsening problem is going largely unnoticed and those responsible almost always get away with it.

We hope our findings act as the wake-up call that national governments and the international community clearly need.

Disputes over industrial logging, mining and land rights are the key drivers, and indigenous communities are often hardest hit.

Global Witness warns that the number of deaths points to a much greater level of non-lethal violence and intimidation that also requires urgent and effective action.

It is calling for a more co-ordinated and concerted efforts to monitor and tackle this crisis and addressed the heightened threat posed to environmental and land defenders.

They are also calling on companies to carry out effective checks on their operations and supply chains to make sure they do no harm.

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