Why We Must Protect Environmental Defenders
By admin June 21, 2016

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Philippines Indigenous People Pope

Global Witness has revealed a report on June 20, 2016 about environmentalists killed in 2015. In their new report, On Dangerous Ground, they documented 185 killings across 16 countries – showing an increase of 59 percent over the number murdered in 2014, and by far the highest annual death toll on record.

Brazil (50 killings), Philippines (33) and Colombia (26) are the worst hit countries in 2015, account for more than half of the murder. Conflicts over mining were the number one cause of killings, and agribusiness, hydroelectric dams and logging also key drivers of violence. In 2015, almost 40 percent of victims were from indigenous groups.

“The environment has emerged as a new battleground for human rights,” said Billy Kyte, a campaign leader at Global Witness and the report’s author.

Those environmentalists stood up for opposing powerful landowners who make money by valuable timber and opposing dam projects that would harm the environment. However, they had been threatened, vilified and were killed for protecting their lands, forests, and rivers. Although the murderers are known, governments did nothing to help the environmentalists, and appeals to the authorities for protection were consistently ignored. Even worse, governments and powerful business interests are using their influence to marginalize land and environmental activists and turn public opinion against them, branding their actions as ‘anti-development’.

The most known murder happened on March 16, 2016. Environmentalist Berta Cáceres was shot dead at her own house in Honduras, because of opposing Agua Zarca dam project. However, Global Witness is still not enough and calls for urgent and meaningful action to end the rising tide of violence.

Thus, Global Witness is calling on governments in affected countries to urgently intervene to:

  • Increase protection for land and environmental activists at risk of violence, intimidation or threats
  • Investigate crimes, including their corporate and political masterminds as well as the triggermen, and bring perpetrators to justice
  • Support activists’ right to say no to projects on their land, and ensure that companies are proactively seeking their consent
  • Resolve the underlying causes of violence against defenders, by formally recognizing communities’ rights to their land, and tackling the corruption and illegalities that blight natural resource sectors

In order to address this protracted conflict between the interest of big industries and environmentalist, these steps must be taken to tackle the injustice that has been wrought and rebuild lands that have been lost.

More Information:

The Rising Murder Count of Environmental Activists

Report: Killings of Environmentalists Up 60 Percent in 2015

Another Environmentalist Was Murdered In Honduras And Activists Are Enraged

Berta Caceres acceptance speech, 2015 Goldman Prize ceremony

2015 saw unprecedented number of murders in Brazil’s Amazon

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