Conservation policy and practice has historically failed to take into
account forest and indigenous peoples' rights and needs. In so
doing, it has also failed to protect forests and biodiversity.

We want to see a fundamental shift worldwide towards a more
effective, sustainable method of conservation - a 'people-friendly'
approach that can better protect forests, wildlife and people.


The current conservation model carries a heavy human cost. Many of the world's national parks and 100,000 protected areas have been created through the removal of indigenous peoples and other local communities. By failing to engage them, conservation agencies are wasting huge potential for collaboration and mutual benefit.

Despite the new ‘people-friendly’ conservation paradigm called for in Durban in 2003, local people continue to be evicted and dispossessed, their livelihoods severely restricted and their fundamental human rights violated in the name of protecting nature. As countries look to meet the UN goal to protect 17% of their land by 2020, the need to properly engage indigenous and local communities has never been more important.


We are working to demonstrate that community-based conservation is better both for forests and for the wildlife and people who live in them, supporting the development of policies that position the genuine, full consent and consultation of local communities at the heart of a new model of conservation.

Some of our achievements include:

  • In 2016, RFUK published a report, Protected Areas in the Congo Basin: Failing Both People and Biodiversity. Our research – based on a sample of 34 protected areas across the Congo Basin – reveals that biodiversity in the region continues to decline, conflicts and human rights abuses are widespread, and the livelihoods of many local people severely compromised.
  • In 2017, we published an extensive case study on two national parks in Republic of Congo, with
    testimony from local communities and recommendations for government and conservation agencies.
  • In 2017, we launched Rainforest Parks & People, an interactive database on the impacts of protected areas on communities in the Congo Basin
  • Field missions to local communities affected by conservation projects to assess project effectiveness and impacts on human rights. In 2017, this included Lac Tele Reserve in Republic of Congo and Lomami National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo
  • A short film about forest communities affected by the Tumba Lediima Reserve in the Democratic
    Republic of Congo.
  • A video series, exploring different themes around conservation in the Congo Basin.
  • Launch of Conservation Watch in September 2016. Run by environmentalist Chris Lang and funded by RFUK, the site aims to facilitate discussion about the real impacts of protected area policy and practice in the Global South.


about this publication

Based on a sample of 34 protected areas across Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, including four detailed case studies, this study reveals that biodiversity in the region continues to decline, that there is little evidence that the ‘guns and guards’ approach to protected areas is being effective, and that due to aggressive enforcement, conflicts and human rights abuses are widespread and the livelihoods of many local people have been severely compromised.