One hundred seventy seven environmental defenders were murdered in 2022, according to an accounting by Global Witness, amounting to one killing every two days on average.
Of those, 60 were killed in Colombia – almost double the number in 2021. In total, Latin American countries accounted for 88% of the murders of environmental defenders last year, with 34 in Brazil and 31 in Mexico. Since 2012 when Global Witness began tracking, Colombia has been the deadliest country, accounting for at least 382 defender killings, followed by Brazil with 376 and the Philippines with 281.
Globally, a third of those who lost their lives in 2022 were Indigenous people, whose lives, livelihoods, and traditional land stewardship are increasingly imperiled as they seek to protect their ancestral homes from fossil fuel extraction, mining, logging and agribusiness, and other environmentally damaging activities.
“Research has shown again and again that Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of the forests and therefore play a fundamental role in mitigating the climate crisis,” Global Witness senior adviser Laura Furones told the BBC. “Yet they are under siege in countries like Brazil, Peru and Venezuela for doing precisely that. We hear of new attacks every day.”
Among the dead were also researchers, journalists, lawyers, park rangers, state officials, and demonstrators.
The absence of free press or independent monitoring likely means the 177 known deaths is an undercount; still others survived harassment, intimidation, forced displacement, and arrest.