Nearly a thousand people around the world were killed while trying to defend their local environment over the last decade.
The stark figures were released this week by Global Witness, a group which campaigns to protect natural resources.
They show deaths increased sharply between 2002 and 2013, with at least 908 people known to have been killed in 35 countries while protecting the rights to land and the environment.
Called Deadly Environment, the report revealed on average two activists a week were killed during the last four years, with 2012 the worst year when 147 died.
The deaths are at their highest level in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific with 448 killings in Brazil, 52 in Colombia, 58 in Peru and 109 in Honduras. Despite the huge total only 6 people have been jailed, stated the report.
Global Witness claimed land rights are a backdrop to most and point the finger at companies and governments for “secretive deals” for large chunks of land and forests to grow crops like rubber, palm oil and soya.
Oliver Courtney of Global Witness said: “This rapidly worsening problem is going largely unnoticed and those responsible almost always get away with it. We hope our findings will act as the wake-up call that national governments and the international community clearly need.”
John Knox, UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment added: “Environmental human rights defenders work to ensure that we live in an environment that enables us to enjoy our basic rights, including rights to life and health. The international community must do more to protect them from the violence and harassment they face as a result.”