Global Witness study: 227 environmentalists worldwide murdered

Status: 13.09.2021 04:35 a.m.

It is a sad negative record: never before have so many environmentalists been killed worldwide. The NGO Global Witness counts 227 activists who were murdered in 2020. Three quarters of them died in Latin America.

The fight against land grabbing and the overexploitation of nature is becoming more and more dangerous: Last year, 227 environmentalists were killed worldwide, as the non-governmental organization Global Witness announced when a new study was presented. That was more than four murders a week and more than ever before.

Three quarters of the fatal attacks were registered in Latin America. 65 conservationists and environmental activists were killed in Colombia, 30 in Mexico, 29 in the Philippines and 20 in Brazil. The organization assumes, however, that the actual number of environmentalists killed is significantly higher. “2020 was the worst year so far. The aggression against environmentalists and human rights activists has increased sharply,” says Lourdes Castro of the Colombian non-governmental organization Somos Defensores. “The most common target is indigenous people who are defending their ancestral lands.” In 2019, 212 environmental activists were killed worldwide.

Corporations, governments and gangs as perpetrators

Behind the acts of violence are mostly companies, farmers and, in some cases, state actors as well as criminal gangs, paramilitary groups and rebels. Globally, most of the killings of environmentalists were related to forestry, followed by water and dam construction projects and agriculture, according to the Global Witness report.

“As long as governments don’t take protecting environmentalists seriously and companies don’t start putting people and the planet before profit, both climate collapse and killings will continue,” said Chris Madden of Global Witness. “Those who risk their lives fighting the climate crisis to save forests, rivers and ecosystems bear a heavy burden. It has to stop.”

Also threats and slander

In addition to acts of violence and killings, threats, defamation campaigns and legal proceedings against environmentalists have increased. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), activists are increasingly being spied on and threatened on the Internet. “Oppression, intimidation and open surveillance can seriously affect activists’ motivation and mental health,” a SIPRI report said. Experts agree that, especially in view of climate change, the consistent protection of nature and the preservation of ecosystems are also of global importance. That is why they are calling for better protection for activists.

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