By DENIS D. GRAY | Associated Press – June 20, 2012
BANGKOK (AP) — Around the world, sticking up for the environment can be
deadly, and it appears to be getting deadlier.
People who track killings of environmental activists say the numbers have
risen dramatically in the last three years. Improved reporting may be one
reason, they caution, but they also believe the rising death toll is a
consequence of intensifying battles over dwindling natural resources,
particularly in Latin America and Asia.
A report released Tuesday by London-based Global Witness said more than
700 people died in the decade ending 2011 "defending their human rights or
the rights of others related to the environment, specifically land and
forests." The death toll reached 96 in 2010 and 106 last year, much higher
than any of the six previous years.
Survey finds sharp rise in killings over land and forests as Rio talks open
19th June 2012Global Witness
New figures collected by Global Witness on the killings of activists,
journalists and community members who were defending rights to land and
forests show the true, shocking extent of competition for access to
natural resources. The briefing, A Hidden Crisis?, finds that over 711
people appear to have been killed in the last decade – more than one a
week. In 2011 the toll was 106 people, almost doubling over the past three
On the eve of the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, the
briefing warns of a hidden crisis in environmental protection,
highlighting a pervasive culture of impunity around such violence, a lack
of information, reporting or monitoring of the problem at national and
international levels, and the involvement of governments and the domestic
and foreign private sector in many killings.
Billy Kyte, campaigner at Global Witness said, “This trend points to the
increasingly fierce global battle for resources, and represents the
sharpest of wake-up calls for delegates in Rio. Over one person a week is
being murdered for defending rights to forests and land.”
The research, drawn from consultations with communities, organisations and
academics, and collation of online databases, reveals:
An alarming lack of information on killings in many countries, and no
monitoring at all at the international level. These figures are likely
to be a gross underestimate of the extent of the problem;
Killings have increased over the past decade, more than doubling over
the past three years;
A culture of impunity pervades in this area, with few convictions
brought against perpetrators;
The highest numbers of killings were found in Brazil, Colombia, the
Philippines and Peru. In these and other countries (Cambodia, DRC,
Indonesia), there are sustained concerns about domestic and foreign
private sector involvement in the killings of defenders.
As global consumption increases, the battle for access to land, forests
and other natural resources is intensifying with deadly results.
Contributory factors include;
Increasing agribusiness, logging, mining, hydropower initiatives on
contested land and forests;
Land ownership concentrated in the hands of elites with strong
business and government connections;
Large populations of relatively poor and disenfranchised citizens, who
are dependent on land or forests for their livelihoods.
Governments must ensure that citizens with concerns over how land and
forest are managed can speak out without fear of persecution and that
investment projects and land and forest deals are open and fair. This
means seeking free, prior and informed consent from affected communities
before deals are approved.
Justice and redress must also be delivered for those killed.
“The international community must stop perpetuating this vicious contest
for forests and land. It has never been more important to protect the
environment and it has never been more deadly”, said Kyte.
Contacts: London; Josie Cohen, firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0)7956 250 260
Oliver Courtney email@example.com, +44 (0)7912 517 147
Rio: Billy Kyte: firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0)7808 776 340
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