The Philippines has replaced Brazil as the most murderous country in the world for people defending their land and environment, according to research that puts a spotlight on the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
More than three defenders were killed across the world every week in 2018, according to the annual toll by the independent watchdog Global Witness, highlighting the continued dangers facing those who stand up to miners, loggers, farmers, poachers and other extractive industries.
The latest global total of 164 deaths was down from 2017’s peak of 201, a decrease that campaigners partly put down to growing focus on the subject by indigenous groups, NGOs, the United Nations and the media.
But Global Witness said companies and governments were increasingly using non-lethal tactics to quash dissent, including criminalisation and threats, while killings remain at an alarmingly high level.
For the first time since the annual toll began in 2012, Brazil did not top the list. The number of defenders murdered in South America’s biggest nation fell in 2018 from 57 to 20. This was partly due to an overall decline in homicide rates across the country, but also came ahead of a transition of power and rising international attention.Last year the UN environment programme put more pressure on governments to protect defenders and organised a conference in Rio de Janeiro to push for international recognition of the human right to a healthy environment.