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Deadliest year on record for land & environmental defenders: New Global Witness report says 207 activists killed in 2017

Our 2017 report 'At What Cost?' looks at irresponsible business and the murder of land and environmental defenders in 2017.

This page includes the report, videos, briefing, resources, and how can you help.

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24 July 2018

Defending Land and Environmental Rights Has Become an Increasingly Deadly Endeavor

Author: Nafisa Eltahir, The Intercept

They were killed by their own army. On December 3, while members of the Taboli-manubo people on the Philippine island of Mindanao were farming and doing housework, the army began shelling their neighborhood and spraying them with gunfire from all directions. Eight people were killed. The dead included Datu Victor Danyan, a leader of protests against the expansion of a coffee plantation by an agribusiness firm...Silvicultural Industries Inc...This was one of many attacks on land and environmental defenders in 2017 recorded by Global Witness...the anti-corruption watchdog organization says that 2017 was the deadliest year for...[these] defenders since it began keeping track in 2012, with a total of 207 defenders killed worldwide...Global Witness says the true number of deaths is even higher...The highest number of killings was recorded in Brazil...followed by the Philippines, as well as Colombia and Mexico. Agribusiness was the most dangerous industry to oppose, a first since reporting began, although resistance to mining, poaching, and logging continued to be risky as well. Indigenous people remained a disproportionate target of attacks...

Agribusiness — large-scale farming, processing, and manufacturing — has replaced mining as the deadliest industry for land and environmental defenders, according to the report. "Agribusinesses is land intensive," said Ana Zbona, a project manager with the Business and Human Rights Resource Center. "Over the last decade or so, investors and companies, encouraged by governments, pushed increasingly into remote rural areas as they seek new lands." Businesses typically make deals with governments that cut out the local community, leaving them on a "collision course," according to Leather [from Global Witness] said...

Global Witness's report includes numerous recommendations for governments and businesses, including the need for prior, free, and informed consent by affected communities, and ensuring those responsible for violence are brought to justice. "Consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of "the link between shampoo in our bathroom or coffee in our shelves and that community in the Philippines," he said.

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24 July 2018

Liam Fox's hunt for post-Brexit trade deals 'may have led to activists being killed

Author: The Mirror (UK)

…The International Trade Secretary approved licenses which sold surveillance equipment to Honduras - where activists are routinely threatened and even killed. Liam Fox’s obsession with securing post-Brexit trade deals around the world may have put the lives of environmental activists at risk, a charity has warned. Surveillance equipment sold to the government of Honduras after licences were approved by the British government may have been used to track, harass and kill activists in the country, according to a report by human rights organisation Global Witness. This year five activists have been killed by the Honduran authorities, the report claims, as land rights activists have faced increased police repression and death threats. In February, Liam Fox approved the sale of telecommunications interception equipment which the organisation believe may have helped the Honduran government carry out its campaign of harassment. That deal and previous licenses to sell spyware equipment were approved by Liam Fox’s Department of Trade according to a letter seen by the Daily Mirror. Global Witness’s Ben Leather told The Mirror:… "Rather than giving repressive regimes the tools to spy on its people, Fox and the UK Government should be standing up for human rights and those who defend them.”…

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24 July 2018

New Global Witness report finds agribusiness is most dangerous sector for defenders

Author: Global Witness (UK)

"At what cost?: Irresponsible business and the murder of land and environmental defenders  in 2017"

…207 defenders were killed in 2017, making it the worst year on record. And why many, many more were attacked, threatened or criminalised for showing the courage to speak out for their communities, their way of life and our environment…One of  the most shocking facts outlined in this report is the number of killings committed by government security forces at the behest of their political bosses and in  league with industry…[G]overnments and  business have a very serious case to answer…Ultimately, attacks against land and environmental defenders stem from our voracious appetite for agricultural goods like palm oil and coffee, and for fossil fuels, minerals and timber. Extracting these resources requires an increasing amount of land, turning it into a highly prized commodity…Companies have a responsibility to their customers, who should have confidence that the products they buy are not fuelling human rights abuses, cultural destruction or environmental devastation… Agribusiness was the most dangerous sector, overtaking  mining for the first time ever…More massacres occurred in 2017 than ever before… Almost 60% of the murders registered in 2017 were from  Latin America…Some increased recognition  and action was taken by governments and business,  but much more must be done. [Refers to Silvicultural Industries].

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