In its latest annual report on the situation of human rights defenders worldwide, Global Witness reveals that 2017 was the deadliest year yet for environmental and land defenders. It documented a total of 207 killings, the vast majority in Latin America. Brazil had the biggest number (with 54 killings), followed by Colombia (24), and Mexico (15). Peru is in fourth place in the Americas region and seventh worldwide, with eight killings documented last year compared to just two recorded in 2016.
As well as environmentalists, those killed were mostly indigenous and community leaders defending their land, homes and communities from mining, agribusiness and other powerful interests. Global Witness highlights agribusiness, including coffee, palm oil and banana plantations, as the industry most closely associated with these attacks.
It asks us to join their call in demanding our governments and companies ensure that the products we use are not fuelling human rights abuses. “When rich tropical forest is levelled for monoculture crops, delicate ecosystems that could capture carbon emissions are lost forever”, it writes “when open land is turned over for mining, soil and freshwater are poisoned, jeopardising the health and the future of nearby communities”.