At What Cost? Our Report on attacks on Land & Environment Defenders in 2017


Hernán Bedoya, from Colombia, was shot by a paramilitary group 14 times for protesting against palm oil and banana plantations that were expanding over his community’s territory and clearing the forest.

In the Philippines, after protesting the expansion of a coffee plantation, a community near Lake Sebu was attacked by military forces, leaving eight dead, five wounded, and forcing 200 to flee.

And in Brazil, farmers assaulted the indigenous Gamela community after they attempted to protect their land from logging, severely injuring 22, including children.

But it’s not just defenders in these countries who are being threatened, attacked, or killed for fighting to protect their land and way of life. Countless people around the world are under threat for standing up to the might of large corporations, paramilitary groups, and even their own governments.

The data we have painstakingly gathered and presented in this report and the case studies included are almost certainly a sizeable underestimate, given the many challenges in identifying and reporting killings. Yet even as it stands, it shows that the risks defenders face every day continue to grow, and governments and business have a very serious case to answer.

The global movement

Of the 207 defenders murdered last year, a vast majority of them hailed from Latin America, which remains the most dangerous region for defenders, accounting for 60% of those killed in 2017. Brazil saw 57 murders alone - the worst year on record anywhere in the world.

But not a single region was immune to the growing number of attacks on its defenders. The Philippines saw 48 defenders killed, the highest number ever in an Asian country. And in Africa, 19 defenders were reported killed, 12 of whom were in the Democratic Republic of Congo.