According to a new research, for people defending their land and environment, the most dangerous place in the world now is the Philippines and has replaced Brazil in this notoriety. This study squarely reflects that type of administration that is being run by the country’s President Rodrigo Duterte.
According to the annual toll by the independent watchdog Global Witness, every week in 2018, more than three defenders were killed across the world. The statistics highlighted the threat to life of those activities that oppose miners, loggers, farmers, poachers and other extractive industries. Over the last one year, there has been a growing focus on the subject by indigenous groups, NGOs, the United Nations and the media which has been partly responsible for the reduction in the 2018 global total of 164 deaths compared to the record of 201 deaths a year earlier.
However, dissent was being crushed increasingly by the use of non-lethal tactics by companies and governments such as criminalisation and threats, said But Global Witness. At the same time, the number of killings is still at alarming levels.
Brazil has been topping the list of notoriety ever since the annual toll began in 2012 and this is the first year that it is not considered by most dangerous country in the world for people defending their land and environment. There was an almost two thirds drop in the number of defenders murdered in 2018 in the largest country of South America at 20 from 57. An overall drop in homicide rates across the country was partly responsible for this. This also came before the change of guard in the country and increasing international attention.
A conference in Rio de Janeiro to push for international recognition of the human right to a healthy environment was organized by the UN environment programme last year as the organization openly exerted greater pressure on governments to protect defenders. The media had also paid adequate attention and coverage o to the incidents. .
Because of a better reporting mechanism that helps to send an alert the outside world about murders which could have otherwise gone unreported, there was a decline, said indigenous groups.
“We should be the ones recognised for this change because we are the ones who are drawing attention to what is happening,” said Sônia Guajajara, an indigenous activist.
The report however also did not rule out the possibility of the greater power at the hands of land-grabbers now and as such they do not feel the need to engage in violence to get what they want. One of the identified patterns is the dominant position in politics is being increasingly being acquired by people in the agricultural lobby.
In 2018, 30 defenders were killed in the Philippines which was lower than the 48 killings that had taken place in 2017- the highest ever such killings for any Asian country over these issues. The island of Mindanao is the place where one third of the killings have taken place. This island has become controversial because it is central to the plans of the Duterte administration to demarcate 1.6 million hectares of land to industrial plantations.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)