A recent report by the non-governmental organisation Global Witness has exposed the alarming global trend of violence against environmental activists. According to the report, at least 177 environmental defenders lost their lives in 2022, with an emphasis on the dangerous conditions they face and the lack of justice for their perpetrators.
Colombia emerged as the deadliest country for environmental defenders, with 60 reported killings. Global Witness highlights that a strikingly small proportion of the perpetrators responsible for these deaths face legal consequences. This prevailing impunity contributes to a cycle of violence and poses a grave threat to environmental activists.
The situation in Colombia has escalated dramatically, with the number of deadly attacks on environmental defenders nearly doubling in 2022. Since Global Witness began documenting attacks on environmentalists in 2012, the total number of killings in the country has reached at least 382.
Despite the distressing situation in Colombia, other Latin American nations also witnessed significant violence against environmental defenders. Brazil reported 34 murders, Mexico recorded 31, and Honduras saw 11. The Amazon region was particularly affected, with 39 killings, many of which involved victims from indigenous communities.
The report identifies various threats faced by these activists, including those linked to gold mining and logging. It also highlights the alleged involvement of companies based in the UK, the EU, and the US in human rights violations.
“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 Global Witness senior adviser Laura Furones.
“Yet they are under siege in countries like Brazil, Peru and Venezuela for doing precisely that. We hear of new attacks every day.”
Beyond Latin America, the Philippines reported 11 cases of environmental activists being killed. Global Witness acknowledges that the full extent of these killings remains unknown due to a lack of independent monitoring and restrictions on press freedom in many countries, which contribute to underreporting.
The report serves as a clarion call to governments worldwide to urgently address this pressing issue. Environmental defenders not only face physical violence but are also increasingly subjected to legal tactics aimed at silencing their advocacy. Safeguarding the rights and lives of those who strive to protect the environment is essential for global environmental sustainability and justice.
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