11th October, 2022 - Colombia has yesterday ratified the Escazú Agreement, just days after Global Witness revealed that the country is one of the world’s deadliest for land and environmental defenders with 322 killed over the last ten years.

These killings are just the tip of the iceberg. Land and environmental defenders also face countless non-lethal attacks such as threats, forced evictions, surveillance and criminalisation.

The much-needed ratification of the Escazú Agreement is a major step in ensuring that defenders are better protected as Colombia faces the irreversible impacts of climate change.          

The Escazú Agreement, when ratified and enforced seeks to foster greater respect and protections for defenders across Latin America and the Caribbean. It is the first regional environmental and human rights treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean and the first legally binding instrument in the world calling for increased protections for environmental defenders. Most importantly, the Agreement requires governments to prevent and investigate attacks against environmental defenders.

Our latest defenders annual report, A Decade of Defiance, reveals the devastating loss of life amongst defenders globally – a staggering 1,733 killed protecting their homes and their rights since 2012, that’s one person killed every two days. 

Shruti Suresh, Campaign Strategy Lead, Global Witness said: 

“The Colombian Congress’ decision to ratify the Escazu agreement is a vital lifeline for defenders facing countless attacks in Colombia and who are risking their lives trying to defend their land and the environment.

"We know that impunity and lack of accountability has perpetuated violence against defenders in Colombia. That’s why the ratification of the Escazú agreement is needed now more than ever to prevent loss of life and empower those defending our planet. Colombia is at a crossroads and to make a real difference for defenders it is critical that the Colombian government works closely with civil society and other key stakeholders to implement the Agreement and guarantee a safe environment for defenders.

"We urge countries that have failed to ratify the Escazú Agreement, in particular Brazil which has emerged as the deadliest country in the world for defenders, to follow Colombia and act now. In addition, countries which have already ratified the Agreement, such as Mexico where we are seeing escalating violence against defenders, must strengthen implementation to better protect defenders.”

Global Witness is calling for companies and governments to be held to account for violence against land and environmental defenders - the people who stand on the frontline of the climate crisis. Urgent action is needed at regional, national, and international levels to end the violence and injustice that they face.