Murders of Environmental Defenders Hit Record High

Murders of environmental and land defenders hit a record high last year, according to a report published by the international human rights organization Global Witness on Sept. 13.

The report revealed that 227 people were killed in 2020 — the highest number recorded for a second consecutive year — for protecting natural resources against exploitation.

“The data on attacks against land and environmental defenders, which Global Witness has been recording since 2012, show that the unaccountable exploitation and greed driving the climate crisis is also having an increasingly violent impact on people,” the organization said in the report.

Of all the fatal attacks, over a third targeted indigenous peoples, according to the report, noting that the most shocking of indigenous mass killings in 2020 were the murders of 9 Tumandok indigenous peoples who were protesting against a mega-dam project in the Philippines.

According to the gathered data, Colombia once again ranked first with the highest number of documented killings at 65 murders in 2020.

Mexico was the second country with the highest number of killings at 30, followed by the Philippines at 29, making it the most murderous country for defenders in Asia once again.

The report also found that over a third of the attacks were reportedly linked to resource exploitation — mainly logging, mining, and large-scale agribusiness.

Logging was the sector linked to the most killings at 23 cases, followed by water and dams at 20 and mining and extractives.

However, Global Witness noted that it could not confirm the sector for 112 cases.

Global Witness also warned that the actual figures could be higher as many attacks go unreported in several countries due to government suppression of the media, limited presence of civil society organizations, and political violence.

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