The Rainforest Foundation UK, Minority Rights Group International and Forest Peoples Programme have today written to the European Commission expressing concerns over its plans for a new flagship biodiversity programme in Africa. The NGOs warn it could entrench an outmoded and unsustainable conservation model that has led to serious human rights abuses and dispossession of some of the world’s most vulnerable people while doing little for continent’s ecosystems.
NaturAfrica is a EC initiative with the stated aim to “tackle biodiversity loss by creating a network of protected areas to protect wildlife and offer opportunities in green sectors for local populations.” However, a leaked document setting out plans for the programme fails to recognise past conservation-related problems in Africa, including in a number of European-funded protected areas where serious human rights abuses by armed rangers have been documented by RFUK and others. The document, which appears to have been drafted without consulting African civil society, also fails to build on the increasing body of evidence that effective and sustainable conservation goes hand in hand with securing the rights of local and indigenous communities.
This latest development comes at a critical period for international efforts to tackle biodiversity loss with countries currently negotiating a post-2020 biodiversity framework that will set global conservation targets and commitments over the coming decade. Last month, more than 150 indigenous peoples’ organisations, NGOs and academics wrote to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that a proposal to place 30 percent of the earth under protected status by 2030 risks leading to serious impacts if not accompanied by much stronger safeguards for traditional environmental stewards.
Joe Eisen, RFUK Executive Director, said “As we enter this pivotal phase in global efforts to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, NaturAfrica in its current form is a continuation of a failing conservation model that has served neither people nor nature. The EC must now seize this moment to rethink the programme and chart the way to a new era of community-led protection of nature.”
To view the NGO letter, see here.