Global Witness report:

177 environmental and land rights defenders killed in 2022

At least 177 environmental and land rights defenders were killed worldwide in 2022, according to an annual report published by human rights organisation Global Witness. A third of these murders happened in Colombia, where the number of killings nearly doubled compared to the previous year.

PATROL: Members of the indigenous Xikrin people in Brazil return from patrolling their territory. They are on the lookout for illegal intruders who exploit their land and extract timber and minerals. Indigenous peoples are killed in disproportionate numbers because they stand on the front lines in the fight for the environment and land rights. Photo: Lalo de Almeida/ Folhapress

Oslo, 13 September 2023

"Those who fight to save the rainforests do so on behalf of all of us. The rainforest countries must follow up on international and regional obligations and strengthen the protection of those who risk their lives for our common future", says Tørris Jæger, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

Nine out of ten murders in 2022 occurred in Latin America, where Colombia is clearly the most dangerous country for those fighting to protect the environment and for land rights. 60 activists were killed in Colombia in 2022, almost twice as many as the previous year. This despite the fact that the Colombian government has committed itself to preventing and investigating the killing of environmental defenders by ratifying the Escazú Agreement in October 2022.

Brazil comes in second, with 34 murders last year. Mexico follows with 31. In total, almost 2,000 activists have been killed since 2012.

"We cannot accept that those who protect the rainforest and the environment do so while putting their lives at risk. The authorities must do more to protect them and comply with the Escazú Agreement. Without such brave, dedicated environmentalists, we will not be able to solve the climate crisis," says Tørris Jæger, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

The Amazon is one of the world's most dangerous areas

The Amazon rainforest is approaching a tipping point in several areas, due to deforestation and climate change. Past this tipping point, the rainforest is at risk of collapsing, and important ecosystem functions will be lost.

Paradoxically, protecting the Amazon is one of the most dangerous things one can do. The report reveals that a fifth (22%) of all fatal attacks worldwide occurred in the Amazon rainforest. These grim figures include the murders of British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, who were killed while traveling in an indigenous territory in the Amazon in June 2022.

Indigenous people disproportionately affected

Once again, the annual report from Global Witness shows that indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by violence and murder. A third (34%) of all environmental and land rights defenders killed last year were indigenous people, despite making up only 5% of the world's population.

Colombia and Brazil promise better protection

The recently elected governments of Colombia and Brazil have announced stronger efforts to protect the rainforest and those who defend it.

The Escazú Agreement is an international agreement that will give environmentalists access to protection, information, participation and justice in environmental matters. Colombia ratified the Escazú Agreement last October, while Brazil is on track to do so.

Global Witness Report

Read the Global Witness report Standing Firm. The report documents the killings of environmental defenders and land rights activists globally in 2022.

Ines Luna Maira

Team Leader, Peru and Colombia Program
(+47) 452 48 654