More than three people were killed a week in 2015 defending their land, forests and rivers against destructive industries. Global Witness report On Dangerous Ground documented 185 killings across 16 countries – by far the highest annual death toll on record and more than double the number of journalists killed in the same period.
These numbers are shocking, and evidence that the environment is emerging as a new battleground for human rights. Across the world industry is pushing ever deeper into new territory, driven by consumer demand for products like timber, minerals and palm oil. Increasingly communities that take a stand are finding themselves in the firing line of companies’ private security, state forces and a thriving market for contract killers.
The worst hit countries in 2015 were Brazil (50 killings), the Philippines (33) and Colombia (26). Conflicts over mining were the number one cause of killings in 2015, with agribusiness, hydroelectric dams and logging also key drivers of violence. In 2015, almost 40% of victims were from indigenous groups.