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Defending Land and Environmental Rights Has Become an Increasingly Deadly Endeavor

Author: Nafisa Eltahir, The Intercept, Published on: 24 July 2018

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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