Rights Groups Nail WWF on Human Rights Abuses

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Some leading human rights groups have joined Minority Rights Group International (MRG) to highlight and condemn World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) role in alleged human rights abuses committed in connection with its conservation work.

WWF is boasting that for nearly 60 years, it has worked to help people and nature thrive. As the world’s leading conservation organisation, it is working in nearly 100 countries. At every level, it collaborates with people around the world to develop and deliver innovative solutions that protect communities, wildlife, and the places in which they live.

WWF says it is working to help local communities conserve the natural resources they depend upon; transform markets and policies toward sustainability; and protect and restore species and their habitats. ‘’Our efforts ensure that the value of nature is reflected in decision-making from a local to a global scale’’, the group says.

WWF connects cutting-edge conservation science with the collective power of our partners in the field, more than one million supporters in the United States and five million globally, as well as partnerships with communities, companies, and governments.

Without the doubt, human activities put more pressure on nature than ever before, but it’s also people who have the power to change this trajectory. Together, we can address the greatest threats to life on this planet and protect the natural resources that sustain and inspire us.

In a joint statement respond to MRG briefing, titled Violent conservation: WWF’s failure to prevent, respond to and remedy Human Rights abuses committed on its watch, it exposes WWF’s alleged repeated failures to uphold its human rights commitments, as found by an independent panel of experts tasked with investigating the conservation organization’s conduct in several protected areas in Africa and Asia.

‘We wrote this briefing to emphasize the findings buried in the 160-page report but presented in ways that obscure WWF’s complicity in egregious human rights abuses that disproportionately inflicted violence on indigenous peoples’, says Colin Luoma, a lawyer and researcher at MRG and co-author of the briefing. ‘This briefing corrects the skewed narrative stemming from WWF’s PR spin machine and directs the reader to key findings of wrongdoing in the report’.

The report’s findings include that: In every protected area under review, WWF had knowledge of alleged human rights abuses; and in every protected area under review, WWF provided financial, technical and material support to park ecoguards despite knowledge of alleged human rights abuses committed by them;

It also found that in 7 of the 10 protected areas under review (in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, and Nepal), WWF allegedly failed to take adequate steps to prevent, respond to and remedy allegations of human rights abuses committed by ecoguards it funded and supported; and in 7 of the 10 protected areas under review (in Cameroon, the DRC, Republic of Congo, and Nepal), WWF failed to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Despite explicit knowledge of human rights abuses, internal WWF investigations were initiated in just half of the protected areas at issue, and only in the wake of intense scrutiny from the media and civil society.

The Panel’s findings point to a systemic problem that reaches WWF International, its senior management team and board and implicates the WWF Network as a whole.

‘’WWF’s response to the Panel’s findings is a slap in the face to victims and undermines accountability for human rights abuses’’, says Lara Domínguez, Acting Head of Litigation at MRG and co-author of the briefing.

‘’WWF has used the Panel’s investigation to whitewash its image, rather than be accountable for the wrongdoing the report uncovered. It goes to show how the culture of impunity at WWF is so ingrained it allows itself the margin to treat the victims of conservation-related human rights abuses as regrettable but necessary collateral damage.’’

In its public response, WWF deliberately downplayed the report’s findings and its own culpability. While it expressed deep regret and sorrow for victims of horrifying abuses, it refused to accept responsibility or apologize to victims for its own shortcomings.

It made no specific commitment to conduct additional investigations in other protected areas it funds and supports or provide any measure of reparation or redress to victims of these human rights abuses, which include multiple allegations of murder, rape, torture, and severe physical violence against indigenous peoples and local communities.

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is however, the leading international human rights organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. It works with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.

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