How much are environmentalists paid

Report on the killing of environmentalists: Use paid with death

Those who defend the right to an intact environment sometimes live dangerously. In 2016, at least 200 eco-activists around the world were violently killed.

Berta Cáceres in October 2015 in Honduras Photo: dpa

BERLINtaz | Few of the better-known names made it into the international media. Berta Cáceres, for example, who campaigned for the rights of indigenous peoples and the preservation of their natural environment in Honduras and was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for this. Or Zafar Lund, who set up a civil society forum in Pakistan that fights for the right to water. Both were shot dead in front of their homes last year.

But there are many more: According to the latest report by the human rights organization Global Witness, at least 200 environmentalists were murdered worldwide in 2016, more than ever before. “And that's just the tip of the iceberg,” write the authors. Many murders probably went unnoticed because they took place in rural areas.

The experts from Global Witness evaluated media reports and information from other non-governmental organizations as well as the United Nations and had the data checked by monitoring groups in known problematic countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Honduras and the Philippines.

The trend towards more and more lethal violence against eco-activists is not limited to a few countries, according to the report. The authors document cases from 24 countries, up from 16 in 2015.

Particularly risky regions

More Asian countries are now among the particularly risky regions. In India, for example, Global Witness counted 16 deaths, more than three times as many as in the previous year. Most of the activists were beaten to death or shot by the police during demonstrations.

Latin American countries are still the most dangerous. 49 women and men were killed in Brazil alone. In Colombia, which is in the process of ending the decades-long civil war, there were 37. “Here, profit is more important than the peace process,” the authors write. On the one hand, returnees who lay claim to land stolen from them during the conflict would be attacked. On the other hand, the renewed increase in investments intensified the struggle for resources.

Overall, most of the murders are related to mining, oil or the destruction of primeval forests. But conflicts over agricultural use, access to water or poaching are also becoming increasingly brutal. In some African countries, for example, rangers in national parks are particularly at risk; in the Congo alone, 20 rangers were shot dead by poachers in 2016.

Anyone who defends against environmental degradation is quickly seen as “criminal” or “terrorist”, is prosecuted by the police and sued in court

Global Witness criticizes governments and authorities. Not only did they protect the “environmental activists and people who claim or defend recognized human rights such as that to a clean environment” too little. In some cases they even criminalized them. Anyone who defends against environmental degradation is quickly seen as “criminal” or “terrorist”, is prosecuted by the police and sued in court. “Protest is often the only way to take a stand on the use of land and natural resources,” the report says.

The authors call for more legal protection and a more rigorous prosecution of violations of environmental and human rights. That the latter cannot even be taken for granted in the case of murder is shown by the fact that in very few of the 200 cases in the past year even one suspect was arrested.