Record number of environmental protesters killed last year NGO report finds

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NGO Global Witness has published a report showing that 2019 had a record number of environmental protesters and activists killed world wide

Record number of environmental protesters and activists killed say Global Witness

According to a new report from NGO Global Witness, 212 environmental activists and protesters were killed during demonstrations last year, up from 164 in 2018. The report also estimates the real number to be far higher due to significant under reporting.

Colombia was the deadliest country in 2019 with 64 deaths, up from 24 in 2018 equating 30% of the global loss of life during environmental demonstrations last year.

The Philippines came in second, with 43 deaths, followed by Brazil at 24 where almost 90% of fatalities occurred in the Amazon regions.

Seven of the top ten worst affected nations were in Latin America, where more than two thirds of total killings took place. The region has consistently been the worst affected since Global Witness started gathering such data back in 2012.

Central American, Honduras saw the largest percentage increase in deaths, jumping from 4 in 2018 to 14 last year.

The EU remains the least affected region, with just 2 deaths, both in Romania, related to illegal logging.

Africa saw 7 deaths in 2019.

Mining protests was the deadliest sector, with 50 people killed, followed by agribusiness with 34. 

Asia was a hotspot for deaths during agribusiness demonstrations, representing 85% of the global total deaths during agricultural-commerce related demonstrations. Of this number, nearly 90% took place in the Philippines.

There were also 24 fatalities related to logging, an 85% increase compared to 2018, the largest increase in any sector.

Central and South American Indigenous peoples were highly disproportionately affected. Some 40% of demonstration deaths were Indigenous, despite only making up an estimated 5% of the protesters.

Men too were disproportionately killed with male demonstrators making up 90% of fatalities.

“Agribusiness, oil, gas and mining have been consistently the biggest drivers of attacks against land and environmental defenders — and they are also the industries pushing us further into runaway climate change through deforestation and increasing carbon emissions,” Rachel Cox, campaigner at Global Witness, said in a press release.

Dayak Iban indigenous community in central Borneo, Indonesia, which now has legal ownership of 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of land, which it operated in a carbon neutral and renewable manner, after a struggle that lasted decades of demonstrations was highlighted in the report as one example of successful campaigning.

The Waorani indigenous tribe in Ecuador, which won a landmark ruling that bans the government from selling their lands for oil and gas exploration was also highlighted as a success story.

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About the Author

Amira Bakr
Journalist Since: September 2010 Profession: Investigative Journalist Graduated in: 2008 Based in: London, UK Previous professional experience: New York, Moscow, Dubai, Beirut Languages: English, Arabic, Russian, French