Are 197 the environmental defenders who died killed while protecting their community’s land or natural resources last year. Defenders are also being beaten, criminalised, threatened or harassed. In a recent example, Ecuadorean forest activist Patricia Gualinga reported last month that attackers had thrown rocks through her windows and yelled death threats at her.
The Guardian in collaboration with Global Witness tried to record the deaths of all those people who were killed somewhere on the planet because of their work for the environment. Everywhere. From the ruthless scramble for natural wealth in the Amazon to park rangers protecting the nature reserves of the Democratic Republic of Congo up to indigenous land rights activists in Brazil.
The first impressive data (after the total number) is that the toll has risen fourfold since it was first compiled in 2002. “The situation remains critical. Until communities are genuinely included in decisions around the use of their land and natural resources, those who speak out will continue to face harassment, imprisonment and the threat of murder,” said Ben Leather, senior campaigner for Global Witness.
People like Emilsen Manyoma and her husband, Joe Javier Rodallega, tey both lost their life in a targeted and deadly attack in Colombia, while trying and documenting killings and forced disappearances. Latin America remains a very dangerous place for someone who intend to protect environment: defending national parks continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, with 21 recorded deaths linked to poaching.
Mexico has become a very dangerous place for those fighting to protect land, sitting in fourth place (up from fourteenth) in the global list of deadliest countries to be an environmental defender. Isidro Balenegro Lopez, a Mexican activist winner of the and Goldman environmental prize, was gunned down. Why? Because he tryed and combat illegal logging which threatened the ancient forests in a region afflicted by violence, drug trafficking and corruption. With 15 killings Mexico has become one of the most murderous country for defenders in America.
In Asia Philippines, with 41 deaths, are once again the most murderous country for defenders. In Africa, the greatest threat came from poachers and the illegal wildlife trade, is in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Tanzania where last year Wayne Lotter, an influential conservationist was murdered after receiving death threats.
And thousends of defenders are being beaten, criminalised, threatened or harassed. Recently , Ecuadorean forest activist Patricia Gualinga attackers had thrown rocks through her windows and yelled death threats at her.
But the number of 197 could be underestimated. Global Witness believe many more murders go unreported.
The EU-funded Environmental Justice Atlas has identified more than 2,335 cases of tension over water, territory, pollution or extractive industries, and researchers say the number and intensity are growing.
Society groups and international institutions keep on mobilising behind environmental rights and denouncing crimes. Campaigners for indigenous communities have also taken their struggle to global climate talks and the United Nations. The UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, urged governments to address the culture of impunity and said the media had an important role in boosting transparency.
Some international institutions are willing to listen. But,the list of those who have been killed for environment and civil right demonstrate that the world is far to solve this problem.
Also published on Medium.