Every other day, an environmentalist pays with his life for his commitment to clean rivers and intact forests: Last year, 177 conservationists were killed worldwide, as the non-governmental organization Global Witness announced when presenting its annual report.

The most dangerous country for conservationists was Colombia with 60 murders, followed by Brazil (34), Mexico (31), Honduras (14) and the Philippines (11). 88 percent of all murders were registered in Latin America.

Activists who campaign against the agricultural industry, mining and logging, in particular, live dangerous lives. Most killings are never solved, the organization reported. “Those responsible for deadly attacks on activists have gone unpunished for far too long. The world’s governments must urgently stop the senseless killing of those defending our planet by protecting the ecosystems that play a critical role in addressing the climate crisis “said a spokeswoman for Global Witness, Shruti Suresh.

One murder every two days

According to the group, 1,910 activists were killed between 2012 and 2022 – that’s one murder every two days. Indigenous people in particular are repeatedly targeted: they make up over a third of the victims, even though they only represent five percent of the world’s population.

“Loggers and illegal gold prospectors are encroaching on our areas – anyone who stands up against them is threatened,” says indigenous activist Maria Leusa Munduruku from the Brazilian Amazon region, which plays an important role in the international fight against climate change as a CO2 storage facility. “They attacked our village, set our houses on fire and we had to flee.”

The indigenous peoples play a key role in the fight against global warming. According to a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), indigenous people protect their lands particularly well from deforestation and destruction. “The indigenous people are the guardians of the forest and we can learn a lot from them in the fight against climate change,” says Mariela Molero from the Venezuelan environmental protection organization Kapé Kapé.

Colombia most dangerous

By far the most dangerous country for environmentalists last year was Colombia. Even after the end of the civil war, parts of the South American state are still controlled by crime syndicates, splinter groups of the former FARC guerrillas and paramilitary groups.

“Environmental activists repeatedly find themselves caught in the crossfire in the conflict between criminal gangs,” says Sirley Muñoz from the Colombian non-governmental organization Somos Defensores. “There is great impunity; most of the time the masterminds of the murders are never found.”

The killing of activists is the tip of the iceberg. “Environmental activists face a range of violence. They are threatened, attacked, harassed, litigated and marginalized,” says Global Witness annual report author Laura Furones. “The goal is always to silence people so that they don’t get in the way of economic activity.”

Human rights violated at the edge of supply chains

Global Witness called on the governments of affected countries to consistently implement existing laws and ensure the safety of environmental defenders. Above all, the right of indigenous communities to their traditional habitat and culture must be better protected, the recommendations said.

On the other hand, companies must ensure that there are no human rights violations at the edge of their supply chains.