Last year, 212 environmental activists and land defenders were murdered globally, making 2019 the most deadly year for people resisting extractive industries or protecting endangered species, according to Global Witness’ latest annual report. Some of the killings are perpetrated by government forces, while others are ordered by mining companies or other industries. Most go unsolved.
“It’s often just people with bandanas on a motorbike, just anonymous hit squads,” says report co-author Chris Madden.
The killing of activists has been on a steady rise since Global Witness began releasing its annual report in 2012. In 2014, 116 activists were killed. In 2018, the number rose to 167. With 212 activists murdered in 2019, the trend shows no sign of stopping. Indigenous people are disproportionately targeted with violence, making up 40 percent of those killed in both 2014 and 2019 despite only comprising 5 percent of the global population. While the report focuses on murder, the most dramatic and quantifiable form of repression, Madden says governments and industries use a variety of tactics to suppress resistance to environmental destruction.