Main findings of Global Witness 2019 Report


The following summarizes the key findings of the Global Witness’ 2019 report. [To read the whole report, click here.]

Note that since 2012, the Philippines was among the top 10 deadliest countries in the world for people protecting their land or the environment. With 30 deaths documented in 2018 (Filipino rights defenders have now documented 87), PH  becomes the worst country in the world in recorded killings of environmental defenders. This includes the massacre on Negros, which Global Witness notes as not an isolated case.

Defenders killings per country chart 2019

“Vast natural resources and fertile soils have long attracted foreign investment to the Philippines, yet widespread corruption and a culture of impunity for unscrupulous companies has seen the profits disappear into the pockets of a tiny elite,” said the Global Witness 2019 report.

Also for the first time since 2012, Global Witness sounds the alarm about the criminalization of activists and their communities. They found evidence from across continents showing that governments and companies are using their courts and legal systems as instruments of oppression against those who threaten their power and interests.

  • 164 land and environmental defenders were reported killed in 2018, which averages more than three a week. Many more were attacked or jailed.
  • The countries with the highest overall number of recorded deaths were the Philippines (30), followed by Colombia (24), India (23) and Brazil (20).
  • The sharpest increase in murders came in Guatemala, with a five-fold rise in killings, making it one of the bloodiest countries per capita, with 16 deaths.
  • Mining was the deadliest sector, with 43 defenders killed protesting against the destructive effects of mineral extraction on people’s land, livelihoods and the environment.
  • There was an escalation of killings of defenders struggling for the protection of water sources, rising from 4 in 2017 to 17 in 2018.
  • More than half of 2018 murders took place in Latin America, which has consistently ranked as the worst-affected continent since Global Witness began publishing data on killings in 2012.
  • Global Witness was able to link state security forces to 40 of the killings. Private actors like hitmen, criminal gangs and landowners were also the suspected aggressors in 40 deaths.
  • Criminalisation and aggressive civil cases are being used to stifle environmental activism and land rights defence right across the world, including in ‘developed’ countries such as the US and the UK.


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