WWF admits “punishment” for human rights abuses


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One of the world’s largest charities learned for years that it was funding alleged human rights abuses, but was unable to address the issue repeatedly, a lengthy delayed report revealed on Tuesday.

A BuzzFeed News investigation first exhibited in March 2019 as WWF, the esteemed non-profit organization with the pampering panda logo, funded and equipped park rangers accused of beating, torturing, sexually assaulting and murdering dozens of people. In response, WWF immediately in charge an “independent review” led by Navi Pillay, a former United Nations human rights commissioner.

The 160-page review, which has now been published online, corroborates the issues raised by BuzzFeed News in Nepal, Cameroon, el Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The report stated that the panel was prevented by the COVID-19[feminine[feminine pandemic of traveling to places where abuses were reported.

The review found that WWF had repeatedly failed in “its own commitments to respect human rights,” commitments that are not only binding by law, but are essential to “nature conservation.”

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In a statement issued in response to the review, WWF expressed “deep and unreserved pain for those who have suffered” and said the abuses of park rangers “horrify us and go against all the values ​​we stand for”. The charity acknowledged its shortcomings and welcomed the recommendations, saying “we can and will do more”.

Pillay’s review refused to deal with whether high-level executives, who found BuzzFeed News, were aware of “accelerating” violence at least one wildlife park as early as January 2018, they were responsible for the wrong steps of the charity.

In the Congo Basin, where WWF did “especially weak” work in fulfilling its human rights commitments, the Wildlife Charity did not fully investigate reports of murder, rape and torture for fear that the government partners “would react negatively to an effort to investigate past human rights abuses,” the group found. There and elsewhere, WWF provided technical and financial support to park rangers, known locally as “green rangers,” even after hearing horrific and horrific allegations, and in some cases after damn reviews commissioned by the same non-profit organization confirmed the reports of “serious and widespread” abuses.

The report found that “there was no formal mechanism to inform WWF of alleged abuses during anti-theft missions” in Nepal, despite allegations of torture, rape and murder ranging from the early 2000s to last July, when park officials were alleged having beaten a young native and destroyed houses in a local community. “WWF needs to know what is happening on the ground where it works” to comply with its own human rights policies, according to the report.

Frank Bienewald / Getty Images

A river in Chitwan National Park in Nepal.

In general, WWF paid too little attention to credible allegations of abuse, failed to build a system for victims to report, and painted an overly rosy picture of its war on poaching in public communications, it found. the report. “Unfortunately, WWF’s commitments to implement its social policies have not been properly and consistently followed,” the report’s authors wrote.

WWF has supported efforts to combat wildlife crime for decades. Although local governments officially hire and pay for park rangers who patrol national parks and protected wildlife reserves, in several countries in Africa and Asia, the WWF has provided crucial funding to make their work possible. The charity has framed its crusade against poaching in the toughest terms of the war.

In a multipart series, BuzzFeed News found that the WWF war on poaching came with civilian casualties: poor people living near parks. At the time, WWF responded that many of BuzzFeed’s claims “did not match our understanding of events,” although the charity quickly revised many of its human rights policies after publication.

In the US, the series spurred bipartisan research and proposed legislation that would prohibit the government from granting money to international conservation groups that fund or support human rights violations. It also caused a file freezing of funds by the Department of the Interior, a review by the Office of Government Accountability and separate government polls in the UK and Germany.

The new review offers more recommendations for the charity to improve its oversight, including hiring more human rights specialists, conducting due diligence before committing to conservation projects, signing human rights commitments. with WWF governments and police officers in the matter and filing effective claims systems so that Indians can more easily report abuses.

The review found that there were no “consistent and unified efforts” across WWF’s worldwide office network to “address complaints of human rights abuses” until 2018.

Many of the group’s findings pointed directly to the top: “Commitments to fulfill the responsibility to respect human rights should be approved at the highest level of the institution,” the group wrote. Although all WWF offices in the Congo Basin are under the direct authority of WWF International, staff at its headquarters in Gland, Switzerland, did little to oversee the organization’s work there.

WWF International also did not provide clear guidance to local offices on how to implement their human rights commitments. For example, there were no rules across the network on how to work with law enforcement and park rangers. As a result, each program office “was left alone to develop or not develop codes of conduct, training materials, conditions to support guards, and procedures for responding to allegations of abuse.”

“Ultimately, WWF International and the WWF network in general had a responsibility to ensure that allegations of human rights abuses by the environmental guards to which WWF provided financial and technical support were properly addressed,” he wrote. group.

Ezequiel Becerra / Getty Images

WWF Director-General Marco Lambertini

Last October, BuzzFeed News revealed that both CEO Marco Lambertini and Chief Operating Officer Dominic O’Neill personally reviewed a WWF-commissioned report documenting the “accelerating” reports of violence by WWF-backed guards in Cameroon. This report was sent to seniors in January 2018, more than a year before BuzzFeed News began exposing similar abuses. Still, Pillay’s review said little about whether WWF executives were responsible for the charity’s failures.

Instead, the review focused on the complex WWF system, according to which individual program offices partner with countries “with a seemingly very limited consultation or oversight of WWF International,” even when WWF International is legally responsible. This overshadowed the “clear lines of responsibility and accountability,” which led to “difficulties and confusion” and “ineffective” attempts to address human rights, the group wrote.

The group was unable to find any contract between WWF International and its partner countries that contained provisions on human rights or indigenous rights responsibilities.

The group also criticized WWF press meetings, saying it needed to “be closer to the challenges it faces” and “be more transparent about how it responds to allegations of human rights abuses associated with activities that supports “. In some cases, “it is clear that to avoid fueling criticism, WWF decided not to publish commissioned reports, minimize the information received, or exaggerate the effectiveness of its proposed responses.”

An internal approach to promoting “good news” seems to have “resulted in a culture” in which program offices “have not been willing to share or scale all their knowledge about allegations of human rights abuses due to of the concern to scare offending donors or state partners, ”the report said. “The WWF at all levels should be more transparent, both internally and externally, about the challenges it faces in promoting conservation and respecting human rights. Equally important, he must be more frank about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of his efforts to overcome these challenges. ”

The report drew immediate criticism from prominent voices who said it did not fully recognize the charity’s responsibility for abuses against indigenous peoples. Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, the tribal rights group, said the report “echoes previous WWF responses by passing the blame on to” government guards. “

A spokesman for the Rainforest Foundation UK said WWF International’s response to the report “does not take responsibility” for WWF’s shortcomings “nor does it sincerely apologize to the many people who have suffered human rights abuses committed in the your name “.

The Forest Peoples Program, an indigenous rights group that has reported abuses to WWF, said the report showed the need for all wildlife charities to take a hard look at themselves.

“The human rights abuses suffered by indigenous peoples and local communities listed in the report highlight the fundamental problems that arise in the conservation sector as a whole, not isolated from WWF,” said Helen Tugendhat, program coordinator of the Forest Peoples program. “We urge other conservation organizations and conservation funders to read this report carefully and evaluate and modify their own practices.”

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