In its annual review, the Global Witness NGO named 177 land and environmental defenders who had been killed in 2022 – from the Amazon to the Philippines and Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the environment watchdog’s latest report released this week, Latin America again bore the brunt of murders worldwide, including 39 killings across the vast Amazon rainforest, which is a vital carbon sink facing destruction at a time the world is grappling to curb climate change.
According to the NGO, the murders of environmental activists doubled in Colombia last year, making it the most dangerous country in the world for those trying to protect the planet.
On Tuesday, the watchdog said the although the number of those killed has progressively decreased since a record 227 in 2020, “this does not mean that the situation has significantly improved.”.
“The worsening climate crisis and the ever-increasing demand for agricultural commodities, fuel and minerals will only intensify the pressure on the environment – and those who risk their lives to defend it,” the London-based group warned.
Colombia ‘most dangerous’ for eco-activists
In 2021, most killings took place in Mexico, but last year Colombia surged ahead with 60 deaths – more than a third of all the murders globally.
This is almost double the number of killings compared to 2021, when 33 ecological defenders lost their lives.
Many of those targeted were indigenous people, members of Afro-descendant communities, small-scale farmers and environmental activists.
At least five children, three of them indigenous, were among the fatalities.
Amazon nations launch alliance to fight deforestation at summit
French banks accused of ‘massively’ fuelling Amazon deforestation
Mining, logging, farming
According to Global Witness, almost 2,000 land and environmental defenders have been murdered over the past decade – some 70 percent of them in Latin America.
In Brazil, where British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were killed last year in the Amazon, a total of 34 land defenders were killed.
Mexico, Honduras, and the Philippines also had high numbers.
While Global Witness says that is “difficult to identify” the precise driving factors for the killings, 10 were found to be linked to agribusiness, eight to mining, and four to the logging industry.
Aside from activists, state officials, demonstrators, park rangers, lawyers, and journalists are also among those who lost their lives.
“All of them shared a commitment to defend their rights and keep the planet healthy. All of them paid for their courage and commitment with their lives,” the report says.