In 2022, at least 177 environmental activists were killed for defending their homeland. This is the finding of the latest Global Witness report, published on September 13.
The Amazon rainforest, according to the report, is one of the most dangerous places for environmental activists, with every fifth killing last year occurring there.
Most of the murders (88%) took place in Latin America. Although the majority occurred in Colombia, deaths in Brazil, Honduras, and Mexico were also recorded.
Accounting for a third of all killings worldwide, Colombia was the deadliest country: 60 people were killed in 2022. Since Global Witness began reporting the defenders’ deaths in 2012, the number of victims from Colombia has been 382, making it the country with the highest death toll in the world.
In October 2022, the Colombian government ratified the Escazu Agreement, a legally binding international regional agreement that aims to protect both the environment and its defenders.
Despite this, the number of land and environment defenders killed in Colombia in 2022 is twice as high as in 2021.
Among the environmental activists Killed, Indigenous people, although accounting for only 5% of the global population, represented 34% of the total number of 2022 victims. This is sadly a consistent pattern: Every year, the majority of people killed for defending their homes belong to Indigenous communities.
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“Research has shown again and again that Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of the forests and therefore play a fundamental role in mitigating the climate crisis,” said Laura Furones, Senior Advisor to the Land and Environmental Defenders Campaign. “Yet they are under siege in countries like Brazil, Peru and Venezuela for doing precisely that.”
Often living on the front lines of the #climatecrisis, Indigenous defenders are stewards of biodiversity and protectors of the environment 🌿🦋
But for this work, they are frequently targeted.
This #IndigenousPeoplesDay, we honour those who are standing up for the planet 🌍 pic.twitter.com/TD4Pliqlty
— Global Witness (@Global_Witness) August 9, 2023
Last year’s death toll adds to the already huge number of victims among environmental activists. Between 2012 and 2022, almost 2,000 defenders were murdered.
However, the report highlights how the actual number of murders might be even higher due to “restrictions on a free press and a lack of independent monitoring in many countries, particularly across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, leading to underreporting of killings.”
Countries are taking action to address the climate crisis properly. “More than 100 countries committed to halting deforestation by 2030 when they signed the Glasgow Declaration at COP26 less than two years ago,” declared Furones. “Yet we now know that 10% more primary forests were lost in 2022 than in 2021 – in other words, we’re heading in the wrong direction and wasting precious time we don’t have.”
Therefore, strong governmental action is needed. In their report, Global Witness urges governments to “urgently implement enhanced protections for defenders and for their role in tackling the climate emergency to be recognised.”
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Indigenous people protest in front of Palácio do Planalto, November 2016. Featured Photo Credit: Antonio Cruz.