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WWF's commitment to local and indigenous communities

A community member attending the community meeting with Marcia Marsh, WWF-US Chief Operating Officer, held at the rebuilt Jivanjyoti Lower Secondary School in the Gorkha District of Nepal.

Community development and respect for human rights are central to our work. The most important inhabitants of any forest, river basin, or seascape are its people. Our mission—to create a future where nature and people thrive—rests on partnerships between WWF and the local and indigenous communities in the places where we work. We know that communities depend on nature for many aspects of their lives—as a foundation for their culture, their food, their water, their efforts to create new forms of sustainable economic development, and more. And we know that conservation is only sustainable if it benefits local communities, and if they play an active role in the design, execution, and evaluation of programs, along with accountability when problems arise.

WWF continues to follow the requirements of each funding partner that supports our work, and we make those requirements binding on every sub-grantee as required. WWF's own policies emphasize the importance of advancing human rights in all our efforts.

The principles of WWF's social policy include:

  • Human Rights. WWF recognizes human rights as central to achieving effective and equitable conservation and development outcomes. WWF has adopted, with many other conservation NGOs, a human rights approach that respects the fundamental value of human rights, good governance, and engaged civil society in achieving environmental sustainability and effective conservation outcomes.
  • Indigenous Peoples and Conservation. WWF recognizes that Indigenous Peoples are among the Earth’s most important stewards of natural resources. We respects Indigenous and traditional Peoples’ human and development rights and recognizes the importance of conserving their cultures. WWF collaborates with many Indigenous Peoples and organizations to conserve and sustainably use natural resources and to advocate on issues of common concern.
  • Poverty and Conservation. WWF strives to find equitable solutions for people and the environment and to enable poor communities to achieve tangible benefits from the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Where poverty levels are high and people are heavily dependent on natural resources for their well-being, WWF takes a proactive position, embracing a pro-poor approach to conservation and making special efforts to enable local people to play a key part in crafting solutions for sustainable development.
  • Gender. WWF is committed to equity and integrating a gender perspective in its policies, programs, and projects. We understand that gender refers to the socially constructed roles and opportunities associated with women and men and recognize differences and inequalities between women and men in access to and control over resources and decision-making opportunities, in particular in relation to environmental resources.

WWF's Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework

Safeguards play a vital role in achieving WWF’s vision. They guide how we engage local communities to plan and manage our work to improve and protect their lives, rights, and livelihoods while conserving nature and wildlife.

Safeguards are designed to manage risks, uphold human rights, and ensure conservation projects deliver better outcomes for communities and nature. WWF uses safeguards to identify, avoid, and mitigate any negative social and environmental impacts within our work. We apply safeguards in the design, implementation, and monitoring of all of our activities.

WWF’s enhanced Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework establishes a common set of standards, policies, planning and implementation mechanisms, and compliance systems that govern how activities on-the-ground are carried out. This framework has been adopted by the entire WWF Network to ensure consistent, comprehensive application of safeguards across all that we do.

The Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework includes the following features:

  • Safeguards screening to surface risks, including those related to community safety, access to natural resources, and Indigenous People.
  • Sound actions to address risk through the development of mitigation plans, implementation measures, and oversight systems.
  • Quality assurance and accountability to ensure appropriate risk management, including through the engagement of qualified safeguards experts.
  • Community participation throughout project design, implementation, and monitoring. Grievance mechanisms will be set up for stakeholders to voice any project-related concerns they have so action can be taken.
  • A Global Safeguards Unit that centralizes information and provides assistance, quality assurance, and training, as well as other activities needed for effective implementation.
  • An independent ombudsperson that will oversee compliance with the safeguards framework across WWF and serve as a means for mediation when disputes cannot be settled locally.

Where reports of abuse relate to landscapes or to partners that have received our support, our practice is to investigate, engage communities, take appropriate actions, and press the government to take corrective measures.

WWF understands that lasting conservation and community development go hand-in-hand. People are at the heart of all we do. Through this safeguards framework, WWF is furthering our commitment to drive sustainable development, uphold human rights, and advance the social and economic well-being of people in the places where we operate around the world.