Conflict over resources: 164 activists killed last year | News | DW | 30.07.2019
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Conflict over resources: 164 activists killed last year

More than 160 people were killed for trying to protect the environment in 2018, says NGO Global Witness. While the Philippines tops the list with 30 deaths, the number of killed activists nearly quintupled in Guatemala.

One hundred and sixty-four people lost their lives worldwide last year as a result of conflicts in the agricultural industry, timber industry and mining sector, according to a study conducted by the NGO Global Witness released on Tuesday.   

The study found that much of the persecution of environmental activists is being driven by demand for the land and raw materials needed for consumer products, including food, mobile phones and jewelry.  

Read more: World marks earliest 'Earth Overshoot Day'

Global Witness blamed investors, including development banks, for fueling the violence by financing abusive projects. 

"It's not good enough for foreign multinationals that are connected to these land grabs to profess ignorance," the report said. "They have a responsibility to proactively ensure that the land they are profiting from has been leased legally, with the consent of the communities who have lived on it for generations."

'Threat to everyone'

The Philippines tops the list with 30 deaths, while in Guatemala the number of killed activists increased more than fourfold in 2018. In India, too, the number of registered deaths rose sharply.

"This violence is a human rights crisis but it is also a threat to everyone who depends on a stable climate," said Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, the UN's special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. 

The overall number of recorded deaths in 2018 dropped from the year before, but that doesn't mean there was a decline in violence, according to Global Witness. The NGO cited increasing censorship and restrictions on freedom of the press. Many killings, therefore, are not reported.

Read more: EU devouring natural resources at unsustainable rate: report

For instance, the number of unreported cases in African countries is presumably significantly higher, said Alice Harrison, senior campaigner at Global Witness. "It is a brutal irony that, while judicial systems routinely allow the killers of defenders to walk free, they are also being used to brand the activists themselves as terrorists, spies or dangerous criminals," she added. 

Activists are not just being criminalized in countries where the rule of law is weak, but also in advanced democracies, according to the NGO. Three anti-fracking protesters were sentenced to prison in the UK last year. The case "has stirred fears that the law is being used to shut down legitimate environmental activism," according to Global Witness. 

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sri/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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