As delegates prepare for the Rio+20 sustainability conference in Brazil, Global Witness said its research determined that more than 700 people were killed in the past decade during efforts to protect land and forest resources.
This trend points to the increasingly fierce global battle for resources, and represents the sharpest of wake-up calls for delegates in Rio," Global Witness campaigner Billy Kyte said in a statement. "Over one person a week is being murdered for defending rights to forests and land."
Global Witness said it found the highest number of deaths was reported in Brazil, Colombia, Peru and the Philippines. Other significant issues were uncovered in Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia where the advocacy group said there were concerns that the private sector was tied to the deaths people trying to protect the environment.
Global Witness called on national leaders to make sure advocates can express concerns without fear of persecution.
"The international community must stop perpetuating this vicious contest for forests and land," said Kyte. "It has never been more important to protect the environment and it has never been more deadly."