SIWI condemns escalating violence against water activists
Violence against environmental, water and land activists is
a growing problem across the globe. With at least 164 documented killings in
2018, according to a 2019 report from the NGO Global Witness. Stockholm
International Water Institute (SIWI) calls on the international community to
step up efforts to combat this dangerous trend.
Imagine being violently assaulted or murdered for protecting
the water resources, environment or the lands that your community is built on.
This is the reality for a growing number of environmental and land rights
activists all over the world
The Global Witness’ report Enemies of the State?
records 164 murders of environmental and land rights
activists in 2018, averaging out at approximately three per week. Latin America
is ranked as the most dangerous place for environmental activists, with over
half of all murders occurring there.
Many of the conflicts are linked to. water.
In an extremely worrying development, the number of murders
perpetrated against activists struggling to protect their water resources saw a
three-fold increase, from four in 2017 to 17 in 2018.
Many of the murders and assaults were related to the mining
and extraction industries with a total of 43 activists murdered, some of those
as a result of their stance on water pollution. Similarly, many of the
protests, against agri-business revolved around pollution and water scarcity
“We in the water community must strongly condemn deadly
violence against peaceful activists,” says Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director,
The continuing wave of violence appears to be driven by
several factors but seem to mark the beginning of an increasingly dangerous era
for environmental defenders. With the climate crisis, rapid depletion of
forests, degradation of eco-systems and unprecedented population growth, there
is a real risk that violence against environmental activists will increase as
the demand for scarce resources becomes even greater.
Many of the attacks and murders have taken place in countries
without freedom of the press, where governments and NGOs do not have accurate
or adequate monitoring systems and conflicts have led to land grabs, murders
and assaults in the absence of functioning governments and judiciaries. The
situation is also exacerbated by a disturbing trend across the globe with more
authoritarian governments using rhetoric against environmental protesters,
branding them as terrorists.
“There is a growing recognition of the strong links between
human rights and a healthy environment. What is especially alarming is that
poor and indigenous groups, often hit the hardest by climate change and
environmental degradation, are at
particular risk of being harassed when they try to protect their lands and
water resources through peaceful means,” says Torgny Holmgren.
World Water Week 2019 theme
The importance of reversing this disturbing trend will be
discussed during this year’s World Water Week, 25-30 August, held in
Stockholm on the theme Water for society – Including all.
About SIWI: SIWI, the
Stockholm International Water Institute, is an international water
institute working to solve global water challenges by improving how water is
used and managed. SIWI organizes the world’s leading annual water and
development meeting, World Water Week, and it awards the prestigious Stockholm
Water Prize and Stockholm Junior Water Prize. World Water Week 2019 is held
25-30 August with approximately 3,700 participants from more than 130 countries
representing governments, the private sector, multilateral organizations, civil
society, and academia.
World Water Week (WWW) in Stockholm, Sweden is a global water conference held each year. Events and conference sessions address a wide range of the world’s water, development and sustainability issues and related concerns of international development.
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