Environmental Defenders Were Murdered in Record-High Numbers in 2020

The group Global Witness recorded 227 murders of environmental and land protectors in 2020, noting that it is probably an underestimate due to underreporting. This is a record high, as the COVID-19 pandemic reportedly made it easier to target protectors in their homes. The report states that it also doesn’t show the full extent of threats to environmental protectors, as many of them are endangered by smear campaigns, non-lethal attacks, and death threats.

Colombia had the most killings (65 people), followed by Mexico (30), the Philippines (29), Brazil (20), and Honduras (17). More than a third of the fatal attacks targeted Indigenous people. In the murders that were tied to a specific ecosystem, 71% of the defenders died protecting forests from development and deforestation.

Global Witness is calling for governments and businesses to tackle the issue by adopting procedures that protect defenders and punish perpetrators.

This image is from a 2020 demonstration in honor of environmental activist Samir Flores, who was killed in Mexico in 2019.
This image is from a 2020 demonstration in honor of environmental activist Samir Flores, who was killed in Mexico in 2019.