Climate change could be deadly for those affected by record temperatures, flash floods, rising sea levels and severe drought. But extreme weather isn’t the only threat to life. It is also extreme action by extreme people, according to the NGO Global Witness, whose mission is to protect the environment and the human rights of those who protect it. In a new report on violence against land and environmental defenders (his 10th annual report on the issue), he says 1,733 people have been killed for environmental defenders in the past decade. One murder every two days.
In the foreword to the report, scientist, activist and author Vandana Shiva wrote: “Each week around the world, three people are killed trying to protect their lands and environments from exploitative forces.” It’s been going on for decades and in recent years has killed more than 200 people each year.”
The epitome of the victim is environmental activist Joanna Stachberry, a long-time zealous defender of the Kiambu forest in Kenya where she lived nearby. She personally confronted land grabbers who were cutting trees in the forest and then filed a lawsuit against a private developer who wanted to build on the forested land. Then, in July 2021, she was shot dead near her home in the suburbs of Nairobi.
“On the day of the incident, she stopped her car to clear a branch that had been intentionally placed there to block her driveway. Neighbors found her car’s engine still running. ,” Word Forest CEO Tracey West wrote in a Global Witness report. “We… know she received multiple death threats. On one occasion, strange men came to visit her and continue to thwart her plans to build an access road through the forest.” Despite that, she didn’t get police protection, but that didn’t stop her, she fought for what she believed in. For what we should all believe in. To this day, her courage and determination shine through all the grief.”
What happened to Kenya’s Statchbury is happening to environmental advocates around the world. Especially in developing countries where rising killings and violence are linked to territorial disputes and the pursuit of economic growth based on extraction of natural resources, Global Witness reports. Violence is deadliest in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, where 54, 33 and 26 people were killed respectively in 2021. Murders were also common in the Philippines, Nicaragua and India, with 19, 15 and 14 dead. Last year’s environmental murder case.
Violence is also associated with certain industries, according to Global Witness. While the vast majority of environmental damage is not tied to any one sector, last year 27 murders were linked to mining, 13 to hydropower, 5 to agribusiness, 4 to logging and roads/infrastructure. It was a matter.
“Most of these cases were related to land disputes, including those related to illegal crops and land title changes,” Global Witness reported. free press.
The true scale of the problem is fuzzy, but at least one thing is clear. Perpetrators of murder are rarely brought to justice.
“Many authorities are turning a blind eye to these killings or actively impeding investigations, which may be due to collusion between corporate and state interests. Such impunity for threatening or attacking advocates serves as a green light to potential perpetrators who believe they are unlikely to face the consequences of attacks against activists. It works,” explained Global Witness. Percentage of victims despite her making up only 5% of the world’s population.
Many of those victims are women. Global Witness said, “She was one in about 10 defenders recorded killed in 2021, and nearly two-thirds of them were indigenous.” says. “Gender-based violence, rooted in misogyny and discriminatory gender norms, is disproportionately used against women’s environment and human rights defenders to control and silence women and stifle their power and authority as leaders. doing.”
Global Witness says that to stop violence against environmental advocates, governments must pass and enforce laws to protect activists. This includes corporate accountability laws that require companies and financial institutions to conduct due diligence on human rights and environmental risks. Meanwhile, companies will adopt policies that “prevent, identify, mitigate and account for human rights and environmental harm throughout their operations” and “explicitly include protocols to protect the rights of land and environmental defenders.” is needed.
Global Witness concludes in a press release: They play an important role as the first line of defense against ecological collapse, yet the violence, criminalization and harassment perpetuated by repressive governments and corporations that put profit above harm to people and the environment. As democracies worldwide come under increasing attack and the climate and biodiversity crises worsen, this report provides a means of addressing these issues. underscores the critical role of defenders in the defense and urgently calls for global efforts to protect and reduce attacks against them. ”