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WWF’s ‘review’ of alleged murders, rape, torture and expulsion condemned by human rights organisations as ‘not credible’

09 April 2019

Environmental and human rights organisations have written to the Director General of WWF International to say that its intended ‘review’ following widespread reporting of abuse of local people linked to some of its projects is wholly inadequate and needs to be reconsidered [1].

Facing serious criticism that its programmes have been associated with murder, rape, torture, expulsion and other mistreatment of local people, WWF announced that it would set up a ‘review’ process [2]. This consists of hiring London-based law firm Kingsley Napley – which specialises in ‘reputation protection’ - and establishing an ‘independent expert’ group to look into the allegations.

The announcement of the Review is the only public response that WWF International has made since the allegations of human rights abuses first appeared in Buzzfeed on March 4th [3].

In the letter, organisations and individuals from the UK, Nepal, DR Congo, Cameroon and India who have been working directly with victims of conservationist abuses revealed by Buzzfeed and have raised similar concerns in the past, strongly condemn the review process and point out that:

  • It is limited to only the cases of abuse reported recently in Buzzfeed and the Kathmandu Post, meaning that many other cases, some of which have been outstanding for many years, will go uninvestigated;
  • There is no timeline, meaning that it could be open-ended, leaving victims without any redress and problems unresolved;
  • WWF has not committed to respecting the review’s findings nor set out how it will deal with them when or if it is completed;
  • There does not appear to be any commitment to invite submissions or evidence to the Panel from individuals or organisations with human rights expertise or local knowledge of where the abuses are alleged to have occurred.

Simon Counsell, Director of RFUK said: “The review looks very much like WWF deferring for an indefinite period the resolution of very serious allegations and fundamental problems at the heart of its approach to protected areas’ management. It is likely to be of little comfort to the victims of abuse, some of whom have already waited years for justice to be done.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, said: “This won’t be the first time WWF has commissioned reports into the many human rights violations resulting from its projects. It ignores reports which corroborate them and requires confidentiality from their authors. It’s known about these abuses for many years and done nothing except issue denials. Why will this be any different? Possibly it’ll eventually blame a few “bad apples”, instigate some human rights training for rangers, and then it’ll be business as usual. Having spent days talking to WWF at high level, I know it has no interest in policing its own projects, or the capacity to do so. Without first accepting culpability, nothing will change".

[1] The letter is available here.  

[2] See http://wwf.panda.org/?344901.

[3] https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tomwarren/wwf-world-wide-fund-nature-parks-torture-death

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