WWF Under Investigation for Human Rights Abuses in Cameroon | Earth First! Newswire

By Survival International / earthfirstjournal.org
Jan 5, 2017
0
WWF Under Investigation for Human Rights Abuses in Cameroon | Earth First! Newswire

from Survival International

This Baka girl was tortured by a WWF-funded anti-poaching squad in Cameroon early 2016. She was 10 years old at the time. © Survival International

In an unprecedented move, a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has agreed to investigate a complaint that the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has funded human rights abuses in Cameroon, beginning a process which until now has only been used for multinational businesses.

Survival submitted the complaint in February 2016, citing numerous examples of violent abuse and harassment against Baka “Pygmies” in Cameroon by WWF-funded anti-poaching squads. Survival also alleges that WWF failed to seek communities’ free, prior and informed consent for conservation projects on their ancestral land.

This is the first time a non-profit organization has been scrutinized in this way. The acceptance of the complaint indicates that the OECD will hold WWF to the same human rights standards as profit-making corporations.

WWF funds anti-poaching squads in Cameroon and elsewhere in the Congo Basin. Baka and other rainforest tribes have reported systematic abuse at the hands of these squads, including arrest and beatings, torture and even death, for well over 20 years.

 

Baka have been forced from large areas of their ancestral land, and face violence from WWF-funded anti-poaching squads if they hunt, forage, or visit sacred sites. © Survival International

Survival first urged WWF to change its approach in the region in 1991, but since then the situation has worsened.

Baka have repeatedly testified to Survival about the activities of these anti-poaching squads in the region. One Baka man told Survival in 2016: “[The anti-poaching squad] beat the children as well as an elderly woman with machetes. My daughter is still unwell. They made her crouch down and they beat her everywhere – on her back, on her bottom everywhere, with a machete.”

In two open letters Baka made impassioned pleas to conservationists to be allowed to stay on their land. “Conservation projects need to have mercy on how we can use the forest … because our lives depend on it.”

WWF has rejected Survival’s claims. It accepts that abuse has taken place but, in a statement in 2015, a spokesman stated that such incidents “appear to have tailed off” despite repeated testimonies from Baka themselves. In its response to the OECD, the organization cited political instability in the region and difficulties in the process of creating “protected areas” for wildlife conservation as the main reasons human rights abuses had taken place. It did not deny its involvement in funding, training and equipping guards.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “The OECD admitting our complaint is a giant step for vulnerable peoples. They can already use OECD Guidelines to try and stop corporations riding roughshod over them, but this is first time ever it’s agreed that the rules also apply to industrial-scale NGOs like WWF. WWF’s work has led to decades of pain for tribal peoples in the Congo Basin. It’s done nothing effective to address the concerns of the thousands of tribal people dispossessed and mistreated through its projects. That has to change. If WWF can’t ensure those schemes meet UN and OECD standards, it simply shouldn’t be funding them. Whatever good works it might be doing elsewhere, nothing excuses its financing of human rights abuses. The big conservation organizations must stop colluding in the theft of tribal land. Tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world. They should be at the forefront of the environmental movement.”

Many Baka are forced to live on roadsides. Rates of alcoholism and diseases like malaria have soared, and their diet has deteriorated. © Survival International

Background briefing
– The OECD is an international body with 35 member countries. It has developed Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which are monitored by national contact points in each country, and offer one of the very few opportunities to hold MNEs to account if they fail to respect the human rights of communities affected by their projects.
– WWF International’s headquarters are in Switzerland, so Survival’s complaint was submitted to the Swiss contact point, as Cameroon is not a member of the OECD.
– In 2008, Survival International lodged a complaint against British-owned mining company Vedanta Resources when it was seeking to mine on the territory of the Dongria Kondh in India without the tribe’s consent. The OECD stated that Vedanta had broken its guidelines.
– WWF is the largest conservation organization in the world. According to the organization itself, only 33% of its income comes from individual donors. The rest is derived from sources including government grants, foundations, and corporations

Pygmy’ tribes like the Baka have lived in the rainforests of the Congo Basin for millennia. They are being illegally evicted in the name of conservation, but logging, poaching and other threats to endangered species like gorillas, forest elephants and pangolins continue.
Pygmy’ tribes like the Baka have lived in the rainforests of the Congo Basin for millennia. They are being illegally evicted in the name of conservation, but logging, poaching and other threats to endangered species like gorillas, forest elephants and pangolins continue.
© Selcen Kucukustel/Atlas

– “Pygmy” is an umbrella term commonly used to refer to the hunter-gatherer peoples of the Congo Basin and elsewhere in Central Africa. The word is considered pejorative and avoided by some tribespeople, but used by others as a convenient and easily recognized way of describing themselves.

Related Films
The Silence of the Pandas - What the WWF Isn’t Saying
50 min · ** UPDATE 5 JAN 2017 SEE BELOW ** The WWF is the largest environmental protection organisation in the world. Trust in its green projects is almost limitless. Founded in 1961, it is the most influential lobby group for the environment...
Trending Videos
TraumaZone (2022)
350 min - An epic documentary by British director Adam Curtis illustrating in seven parts state and decline of the Soviet Union and the development in Russia 1985–1999 using material from the BBC archives.
Fall and Winter (2013)
102 min - This stunning film takes you on a hypnotic journey, reaching to the past to understand the origins of the catastrophic environmental transitions we now face. Over two years, director Matt Anderson...
'Anti-Woke' Bank COLLAPSES After 3 Months | The Kyle Kulinski Show
13 min - The bank that went 'anti-woke' has apparently... gone broke.
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006)
52 min - When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate. This film tells of the...
Liberation Theory | Ricky Sherover-Marcuse
The Big Picture
Documentaries about Living the Change
Recommended

Films For Action hosts a subscription service that currently offers 56 highly-curated, solutions-oriented films to Patron subscribers donating $5 per month. 

Subscribe here. Your support helps grow our 5000+ video library, which is 99% free and contains no ads thanks to our patrons.

 

How to Use and Contribute to this Library

  • Use the Explore menu to filter content by type and topic. Selections stack, so you can view Film Types about Specific Topics.

  • Submit videos directly to our library! Just sign up and click +Add Video at the top of the site and paste the video URL to get started. 

  • Create an account to save videos and articles for later and rate content for others

  • Filmmakers: Interested in our TVOD or SVOD services? Films For Action is one of the best homes for paradigm-shifting documentaries.

  • Contact us if you have a site or film suggestion, question, want to volunteer, or you're a filmmaker looking to collaborate. 

    Let's be the media!