Agribusiness industry most linked to killings of environmental defenders

23 July 2018

Global Witness today reveals that at least 207 land and environmental defenders were killed last year trying to protect their homes and communities from destructive industries. Notably, the report “At What Cost?” shows that agribusiness has overtaken mining as the industry most associated with these attacks, with 46 killings linked to the sector.

The report links this violence with the products on our shelves. “Many of the products emerging from this bloodshed are on the shelves of our supermarkets”, says Ben Leather, senior campaigner at Global Witness. Large-scale agriculture produces components and ingredients for supermarket products such as palm oil for shampoo and soy for beef.

Latin America and the Philippines

60 percent of the recorded murders were in Latin America, with Brazil recording the worst year on record anywhere in the world. 48 defenders were killed in the Philippines in 2017, the highest number ever documented in an Asian country. 

Taking on poachers became even more dangerous, with a record 23 people murdered for taking a stand against the illegal wildlife trade - mostly park rangers in Africa.

“These numbers paint a picture that we recognize from our work in the field”, says Liliana Jauregui, senior expert Environmental Justice at IUCN NL. “In many of these countries, we support local defenders in protecting human rights and the environment. They are increasingly targeted with intimidations, criminalization and other tactics aimed to silence them. But we will make sure their voices are heard.”

Guarantee accountability 

Leather: “Governments, companies and investors have the duty and the power to support and protect defenders at risk, and to guarantee accountability wherever attacks occur. But more importantly, they can prevent these threats from emerging in the first place, by listening to local communities, respecting their rights, and ensuring that business is conducted responsibly.”

IUCN NL, alongside other organisations, is advocating for an international binding treaty for business and human rights. This treaty will ensure that companies can be held accountable when they cause abuses, such as land grabs for palm oil. 

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