University of Oulu

Le Billon, Philippe; Lujala, Päivi (2021) Environmental defenders : killings, perpetrators, and drivers of violence.In: Menton, M., & Le Billon, P. (Eds.). (2021). Environmental Defenders: Deadly Struggles for Life and Territory (pp. 64-75). Routledge.

Environmental defenders : killings, perpetrators, and drivers of violence

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Author: Le Billon, Philippe1; Lujala, Päivi2,3
Organizations: 1Department of Geography and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
2Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, Finland
3Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), in Bergen, Norway
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: embargoed
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Routledge, 2021
Publish Date: 2023-01-16


Recent policy and media coverage initiatives have provided much needed attention to the protection and support of environmental defenders, but there has so far been little systematic analysis of patterns and determinants of repression at multiple scales. Building on available databases, this chapter identifies patterns of repression and potential determinants of killings. Globally, about a third of socio-environmental conflicts involve mass mobilization, arrests and direct forms of violence. These ‘high intensity’ conflicts are more frequent in Asia and Latin America. At least 1945 environmental and land defenders were killed in 57 countries between 2002–2019, most of them occurring in Brazil, the Philippines, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and Peru. Killings are more likely in countries with high levels of foreign direct investment, dependent on mineral extraction, large Indigenous populations or frequent protests. There are also more killings in countries that are neither strong democracies or autocracies. More systematic reporting and analysis of repression — including at sub-national level — can help protect and support defenders, notably through conflict-sensitive investment policies and greater accountability for abuses.

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ISBN: 978-1-003-12722-2
ISBN Print: 978-0-367-64970-8
Pages: 64 - 75
DOI: 10.4324/9781003127222-8
Host publication: Environmental defenders : deadly struggles for life and territory
Host publication editor: Menton, Mary
Le Billon, Philippe
Type of Publication: A3 Book chapter
Field of Science: 519 Social and economic geography
Copyright information: © 2021 The Authors. This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Environmental Defenders: Deadly Struggles for Life and Territory on 16 July 2021, available online: