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People power under pressure: Human rights defenders & business in 2023

Publications Human Rights Defenders

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

This report examines the attacks against human rights defenders (HRDs) who speak out against corporate harm amidst significant limitations on civic space globally. The analysis is available in EnglishFrenchSpanishPortugueseJapanese and Russian.

Between January 2015 and December 2023, the Resource Centre documented over 5,300 attacks worldwide against HRDs challenging corporate harm. In 2023 alone, 630 instances of attacks directly impacted approximately 20,000 individuals. The majority (78%) of these attacks targeted individuals engaged in protecting climate, environmental, and land rights.

Key findings include:

  • Latin America and the Caribbean experienced the highest number of attacks on HRDs challenging corporate harm in 2023, accounting for 41% of the global total (258 attacks). Approximately 30% (195 attacks) occurred in Asia and the Pacific.
  • Brazil, India, Mexico, Honduras, the Philippines, USA, Iran, Colombia, Indonesia, Uganda, France, and the United Kingdom witnessed the highest number of attacks in 2023.
  • 87 killings of defenders speaking out about business-related harms were recorded in 2023.
  • 86% of attacks were non-lethal, including judicial harassment, physical violence, intimidation, and threats.
  • The mining, agribusiness, and oil, gas & coal sectors were the most frequently targeted, consistently posing significant risks since 2015.
  • Many attacks involved collusion between state, private sector, and other non-state actors, often in contexts with high levels of impunity. State actors, particularly police and judicial systems, were the primary perpetrators of attacks in 2023.

The report features stories highlighting the essential work of HRDs worldwide, recent legislative advancements, voluntary commitments, and principles. It also provides recommendations for companies, investors, and states.

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