(MintPress) – An independent report released this week shows a marked increase in the murder of environmental activists worldwide. Over the past decade, the numbers of environmental activists killed globally rose to 711, around 1 per day. As national representatives meet in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil this week for the United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development, these underreported statistics may be given some much needed attention.
The overarching goal of the conference is to formulate strategies for environmental protection and poverty reduction. Many of the issues, environmentalists claim, stem from increasing global demand for resources. These resources are often harvested at the expense of the environment and the wellbeing of indigenous residents.
Global Witness reports
Global Witness, a non-profit environmental advocacy group, recorded the hundreds of activists, journalists and community leaders who have been killed over the past decade. The group’s recent briefing, A Hidden Crisis?, found that 106 people were killed in 2011 alone, a rate that has almost doubled over the past three years.
The unfortunate numbers are confirmed by the Catholic Land Pastoral (CPT), a faith-based watchdog group that records violence against environmentalists. Indeed, a report by the group stretching back to 1988 indicates that 1,150 activists have been murdered.
In May 2011 for example, activist Jose Claudio Ribeiro was shot and killed, along with his wife Mario Do Espirito Santo Da Silva, according to a HuffingtonPost report. The two were murdered while peacefully protesting logging and deforestation in the Brazilian forests located in the state of Para. The two environmental advocates had several confrontations with loggers in the past, some of them violent.
Speaking on the issue, Billy Kyte, a campaigner for Global Witness issued a dire warning, saying, “This trend points to the increasingly fierce global battle for resources, and represents the sharpest of wake-up calls for delegates in Rio. Over one person a week is being murdered for defending rights to forests and land.”
More than three quarters of the deaths recorded were in the South American countries Peru, Colombia and Brazil. According to a recent report by CBS news, “Most of the fatalities occurred during protests or investigations into protests or investigations into mining, logging, intensive agriculture, hydropower dams, urban development and wildlife poaching.”
Few of the murders have been properly investigated according to Global Witness, and convictions for these murders have been few and far between in countries with lax enforcement.
Part of the problem too, is the lack of accurate reporting on the numbers killed. Outside of initiatives by independent groups, few governments or international bodies, like the U.N., conduct thorough research into the numbers and causes behind the deaths.
Ironically, Brazil, one of the countries with the highest number of activists deaths, is hosting the global Rio +20 environmental conference this week. While many within the environmental advocacy community remain pessimistic, seeing little hope for significant reforms, there is hope that these timely findings could receive some much needed attention during the conference.
According to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Website, “At the Rio+20 Conference, world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, will come together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want.”
While the goals are lofty, and admirable, little has been done to advance these plans beyond the annual meetings. Of the 90 most salient environmental goals agreed during the inaugural U.N. climate conference in 1992:
“ … Little or no progress was detected for 24 of them, including climate change, desertification and drought. In addition, there were eight goals which showed no progress and instead further deterioration, such as the state of the world’s coral reefs,” a U.N. press release said.”