177 environmental activists killed in 2022, majority in Latin America
A new report by Global Witness reveals that violence against environmental defenders is on the rise as corporations race for natural resources in Africa, Asia, and the Amazon.
177 environmental activists were killed in 2022 and a fifth of them were murdered in the Amazon rainforest, figures from non-governmental organization Global Witness revealed.
Organized crime groups and land invaders have targeted activists killing around one person every two days. Colombia saw most of these incidents as it recorded 60 murders.
Furthermore, Indigenous people who represent 5% of the world's population made up 34% of those killed. Last year's figures mean that 1,910 people perished in ten years as they defended nature with most of the incidents going unpunished, according to the NGO.
Crimes were concentrated in Latin America where around 88% of the murders were recorded. Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, and the Philippines saw the most violence after Colombia in 2022.
However, killings did go down from the 200 murders recorded in 2021. Nonetheless, Global Witness believes the numbers remain high, and it urged for special protections for environmental defenders or climate-critical ecosystems, such as the Amazon rainforest.
"For too long, those responsible for lethal attacks against defenders have been getting away with murder," said Shruti Suresh, the co-director of campaigns at the NGO.
Suresh said environmental defenders who are driven by a commitment to defend their homes and communities will stand firm and continue their activism regardless of "irresponsible corporate and government actions."
Mining drives violence against activists
The report sheds light on a race to secure natural resources in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, which has led to violence against activists. The NGO points to the extraction of rare earth elements that go into the production of electric cars and wind turbines as catalysts to the surge in murder cases against environmentalists.
Global Witness has put out an annual report on such incidents for the past 11 years where it urges governments to enforce existing laws that protect environmental defenders. Moreover, the organization called on corporations to make sure that their supply chains are not driving the violence. It also said that the underreporting of attacks around the world indicates that the reported figures are an underestimate, especially in Africa and Asia.
"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. Yet they are under siege in countries like Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela for doing precisely that," Laura Furones, a forest governance expert who advised on the report, said.
"If we are to keep the forests standing, we must recognize that this relies upon the protection of those who call the forest home."