Environmental Defenders

Environmental Activists

It has never been more important to protect the environment, and it has never been more deadly. The battle for the environment is emerging as a new battleground for human rights. En savoir plus

In 2012, Global Witness mourned the death of a fellow campaigner. Chut Wutty had spent years exposing how Cambodia’s political and business elite have accumulated vast fortunes by selling off the country’s land and forests.

He was murdered by military police while showing journalists an illegal logging site. 

Wutty’s death prompted Global Witness to research others like it. Our 2012, briefing A Hidden Crisis found that over 711 activists, journalists and community members had been killed in the last decade defending their rights to land, forests and rivers. By the time our On Dangerous Ground report was published in 2016, this death toll had risen to over 1,200. 

The true figure is likely to be far higher, but there is a severe lack of information on the size of the problem and who is involved.  

What is clear is that the environment is increasingly becoming a battleground for human rights. As soaring demand for land and natural resources drive industrialisation into new territories companies are striking deals with state officials without the consent of local communities. 

Increasingly those communities are finding themselves in the firing line of unaccountable companies, state security forces and a thriving market for contract killers. A lack of attention to the problem is feeding endemic levels of impunity, with just over one per cent of perpetrators known to have been convicted between 2002 and 2014.  

Global Witness is campaigning to stop these killings, and to ensure that land and environmental defenders are able to live and work without fear or intimidation. 

We monitor killings and advocate for reforms aimed at stopping competition for resources from stoking conflict. We also investigate the root causes of violence in priority countries, pushing governments to monitor abuses and bring perpetrators to justice. 

This has helped force this hidden crisis onto political agendas. Our Peru’s Deadly Environment report, for instance, helped draw global attention to the killings of indigenous leader Edwin Chota and his three colleagues by illegal loggers in the Amazon. Peru’s government later fast-tracked the official titling of Chota’s community’s land – one of our key recommendations.