Following the recent article in The Ecologist by Lewis Evans of Survival International concerning a complaint to the OECD brought by Survival against the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Forest Peoples Programme has received some queries regarding our view of the situation in Cameroon (where we have a substantial programme working alongside forest indigenous peoples). FPP has limited knowledge of the specific facts of the complaint made by Survival International and cannot corroborate its contents. However, we can confirm that physical abuse by ecoguards (including in some cases very serious injuries) has been a regular complaint by Baka community members in several areas where we or our partners work. In our view it is a widespread and longstanding problem tied to the creation of national parks, conservation areas and privately-run hunting concessions, which has been insufficiently addressed (and indeed largely ignored) by the government and conservation actors in Cameroon, including WWF, whose actions have precipitated these abuses. The need to conserve forests is not the issue; the issue arises when conservation is pursued following the failed ‘fortress conservation’ model that excludes local communities, impoverishes them, and does not build on their expertise and on their internationally recognised rights to their lands.
FPP is not aware of any information which would suggest that WWF has been directly involved in abuses by ecoguards, or that it has encouraged or incited these abuses in any way. However, WWF does work closely with and provides funding to certain government authorities who are responsible for employing and managing ecoguards (including, reportedly, WWF vehicles being used for ecoguard patrols). It is our view that WWF, as an international organisation, has a responsibility to ensure that the actors with whom it is working are not engaging in, and/or the policies which it is pursuing are not resulting in, human rights violations.