New report: People defending the environment are being murdered

Environmental defenders are under attack. A new report released today by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) clearly demonstrates that people who protect the environment and human rights are increasingly being monitored, threatened, harassed – and even murdered.

Manifestation för miljöförsvarare under FN:s Agenda 2030-möte i New York i juni 2019.

Foto / Illustration:

Eileen Mairena Cunningham

The civil society democratic space is shrinking. Since 2012 more than 70 countries have introduced legal restrictions aimed at citizens involved in civil society organisations. The situation has become increasingly dangerous for people fighting for democracy, environmental protection and human rights. 

People who defend nature are particularly vulnerable. Three environmental defenders are being killed every week somewhere in the world, according to the organisation Global Witness.

The report Environmental defenders under attack – The threats facing people who protect nature present the results of a comprehensive study carried out by the SSNC. The study is based on testimonies given by 25 environmental organisations around the world with whom SSNC collaborate.

The results are deeply troubling: 

88 percent of participating organisations state that the situation for civil society in their respective country has deteriorated in recent years. 

80 percent state that they find it difficult to carry out their activities as planned. The most common forms of risks are said to be surveillance (physical and digital), smear campaigns and death threats. 

24 percent state that employees or individuals from the organisation’s target groups have been killed as a result of their environmental work.

52 percent state that they can give examples of when they or their target groups have been harassed or threatened by private companies.  

68 percent perceive that decision-makers in the country in which the organisation operates seem to regard the environmental movement as a threat. 

Conflicts involving environmental defenders are often linked to land and natural resources in countries plagued by weak rule of law and widespread corruption. The mining, agricultural and forestry sectors account for the majority of confrontations arising between companies and local communities living in exploited areas. 

– The UN, EU and the Swedish government must now take decisive action and stop unsustainable investments that affect both people and nature. We also call upon companies to ensure that extractive projects are transparent, carried out under the rule of law, free of corruption and implemented in a dialogue with stakeholders, says Karin Lexén, Secretary General at SSNC. 

– Humanity is facing one of its greatest challenges so far – preventing the ongoing climate change and loss of biodiversity. The world needs to stand up for the rights of environmental defenders to protect our common future, says Karin Lexén.

Lisa Persson
Press secretary
Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC)
M +46 (0) 70 916 41 79