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, organizations 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.
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.
Justice and redress must also be delivered for those killed. Kyte stated:
"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"