I was greatly saddened and angered by the latest report by Global Witness on killings of people defending land and the environment around the world in 2019.
Between 1 January and 31 December 2019, the NGO reports the killings of 212 people.
We know well the risks faced by human rights defenders in the course of the work, and that those working on the issues of land rights and the protection of the environment are often the defenders who confront the most severe risks as a result of their work, but the figures in the report are shocking nonetheless.
The alarm bells have been ringing about this for a long time. And we know that these numbers are probably a low estimate of the number of actual killings of defenders around the world last year, with many unreported.
In most cases those guilty of the killings aren’t brought to justice, which only makes future killings more likely.
So many of those in the report were killed after their defence of the environment, whether through combatting illegal logging, opposing destructive agri-business models, or protecting sources of water from corrosive ‘development’.That raises serious questions about State authorities' commitments to the climate priorities they have signed up to in various international fora. The protection of human rights defenders and the protection of the environment are clearly interconnected.
The links between many of the killings and business activities is another extremely worrying element of the report. Up to now, companies have largely been left to self-regulate themselves when it comes to the negative human rights impact of their activities. It is clear this model is not working.
When it comes to large-scale projects, it is also now clear that a responsibility also lies with those financing such projects, including States and investment banks.
These actors must come together to find ways to put an end to these killings. The recommendations in the report provide some clear ways forward.
The report can be accessed here: https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/defending-tomorrow/