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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
Embedding human rights in conservation
In 2019, WWF commissioned an independent panel of experts to review how we were responding to reports of human rights abuses by some government rangers in complex and remote landscapes in Central Africa, India, and Nepal. Embedding Human Rights in Nature Conservation: From Intent to Action is the resulting report. We wanted a tough and unbiased evaluation of our efforts in order to continue to learn and improve our programs. We published the Independent Review, which you can find in the column at right, in November 2020 Importantly, the panel found no evidence that WWF staff directed, participated in, or encouraged any abuses. When concerns were raised, our staff took actions to respond. The panel was also unsparing in its conclusion that we need to do more. We embrace the panel's recommendations, and we are addressing all of them, in addition to actions we’ve already taken to better meet our commitments to communities. We are committed to reporting regularly on progress made against these actions.
The reported abuses committed by some government rangers horrify us, and go against all the values we stand for. We feel deep and unreserved sorrow for those who have suffered. We are determined to do more to make communities’ voices heard, to have their rights respected, and to consistently advocate for governments to uphold their human rights obligations. Our conviction is that the steps we are taking will help safeguard communities and the nature upon which they depend, and that we and our partners will deliver more lasting conservation as a result.
Led by Judge Navi Pillay, chair of the panel and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the panel also included Professor John Knox, first United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, and Dr Kathy MacKinnon, Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and former Lead Biodiversity Specialist of the World Bank. The panel members were selected for their extensive expertise and experience in human rights, development, and conservation. We wanted a tough and unbiased evaluation of our efforts to continue to learn and improve our programs.
The Independent Review found no evidence that WWF staff directed, participated in, or encouraged human rights abuse of any kind. The panel recognized WWF was one of the first conservation organizations to embrace human rights principles; that WWF’s commitments often set higher standards than the laws and practices of the states in which we work; and that WWF took many steps to support communities.
The panel also identified shortcomings and called for more rigor in how we implement our policies, listen and respond to communities, and advocate for governments to protect human rights.
We welcome the panel’s recommendations as important guidance in our evolution as a conservation organization and are addressing all of them. They will underpin efforts already underway.
WWF has long recognized that conservation and human rights are at the heart of sustainable development. In line with the panel’s recommendations, over the past three years, we have designed and implemented measures to more consistently integrate human rights into our conservation work. Important steps we are taking include: