Opportunities at the 5ème CEFDHAC - Conférence sur les écosystèmes de forêts denses et humides d'Afrique centrale
This report was produced with the generous support of Comic Relief
This briefing for the 5ème CEFDHAC Conference highlights key areas of concern related to the rights of indigenous forest communities in Central Africa who face serious discrimination from society, are treated as inferior and exploited by their neighbours, and are persistently neglected by development projects. The number of national and transboundary protected area projects in Central Africa is growing rapidly to respond to heightened threats to forest biodiversity, and conservation organisations are working hard to generate the necessary resources to enable these projects to be more sustainable. However, many of these conservation projects overlap lands owned or claimed by local communities, especially an estimated 500,000 indigenous “Pygmy” hunter-gatherers living in the CEFDHAC countries, and the impacts of conservation on these communities are often very severe, placing these indigenous communities’ needs squarely on international donors’ poverty alleviation agendas. Work over the past four years by FPP and its partners shows how widely agreed international principles recognising the rights of indigenous peoples to use, own and control their traditional territories, and to protect their traditional knowledge and skills, and which espouse the development of working partnership with indigenous people based upon the principle of full informed consent, are not being applied properly by governments and conservation agencies, even though they have already been agreed by them. The reasons for this failure are complex, and related to the need for revision of conservation project practices and legislative measures concerning communities’ land rights. This briefing concludes that solutions supporting community rights and biodiversity are now within reach. This conference is an important opportunity to promote a shift in favour of both communities’ rights, as well as the long-term and sustainable conservation of biodiversity. FPP will continue to support efforts to help its partners in CEFDHAC participating countries to develop the necessary dialogue with conservation organisations on these issues in order to promote both the interests of their communities and the protection of their environment.