Environmental and human rights watchdog Global Witness collected and analyzed 2020 data from around the world on deadly attacks on environmental defenders, and found that protecting the environment resulted in an average of more than four deaths a week.
Global Witness reported that the Philippines was the only country outside the region to have recorded more than 15 deaths – 29 killed in attempts to stop mining, logging and dam projects. Overall, more than half of the attacks in 2020 occurred in those three countries, according to Global Witness.
Family members of some victims told Global Witness how lockdowns during the pandemic made it easier for defenders to attack in their own homes, targeting governments and businesses to protect the natural resources their communities rely on We do.
Chris Madden, one of the report’s authors, told CNN: “2020 was supposed to be the year the world was stable, but our data shows that this did not translate into safe outcomes for those who stand up for our planet.” ”
“It is clear that the rampant exploitation and greed that fueled the climate crisis are also having an increasingly violent impact on people,” he said.
According to Global Witness, more than 70% of attacks were on people protecting forests – one of the planet’s natural carbon sinks – from further deforestation and industrial development. The watchdog says others were killed to protect rivers, oceans and other coastal ecosystems.
Fighting for water rights and against dam construction and mining, the report found the largest area linked to most murder cases, with 23 in Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru and the Philippines collectively.
And, despite being only 5% of the world’s population, more than 30% of all fatal attacks in 2020 targeted indigenous people. Global Witness documented these in Mexico, Central and South America, as well as the Philippines.
Environmental activists in Africa are facing similar violence, but researchers say it may be underreported. Global Witness documented 18 murders on the continent in 2020, a jump from just seven in 2019. Most of these attacks took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while the rest took place in South Africa and Uganda.
“We know that beyond killings, many defenders and communities also experience attempts to silence them with tactics such as death threats, surveillance, sexual violence or criminalization,” the authors wrote. “Such attacks are even less reported.”
Adrian Salazar, policy director for the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, said the report’s findings also reflect what is happening in the US, where police are cracking down on indigenous organizers protesting the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure such as the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. Cracking down.
“Activists in the global north face increased criminalization, while environmental defenders in the global south face an increased risk of death,” Salazar, who was not involved in the report, told CNN.
“It’s outrageous, but it’s also surprising that killings of environmental defenders have increased again,” he said. “As this new report shows, these defenders – and especially indigenous environmental defenders – are risking their lives to protect our future.”
Researchers at Global Witness analyzed international and national datasets that catalog attacks on environmental defenders, search-engine alerts, news sources and information from dozens of local, national and regional organizations around the world. They also examined the data in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
While Global Witness has been documenting environmental attacks around the world since 2012, the group notes that they may be underreporting the killings, as there is no free press and independent monitoring of the attacks in many parts of the world.
As well as the authors, Salazar warns that as the climate crisis intensifies, so do attacks against those trying to stop it.
“As the climate crisis and ecological devastation accelerate, the corporations addressing these crises will be relentless in pursuing their profits above the cost of human life,” Salazar said. “Every life and every story matters. As long as the violence against the Earth continues, the resistance will continue.”