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- Mathews Rogers, WWF Chief Commissioner


Our mission


Our mission is to stop the degradation of our planet’s natual environment, and build a future in which people live in harmony with nature.

The mission of WWF across the Asia Pacific is to ensure a future for both people and nature. WWF has been working to conserve Asia Pacific’s astonishing wealth of biodiversity for over four decades and has considerable experience in engaging with partners for conservation solutions that benefit people, economies and the environment.


Oil Spill Mauritius, August 2020 © Brady GoorappaLocal and international response
WWF praises the local organizations and community groups on Mauritius for their rapid response to the oil spill and for their efforts to remove oil. WWF welcomes the news that the international community is mobilizing to support Mauritius in its clean-up efforts.

Concerns and immediate priorities
The front portion of the ship has been moved and sunk. WWF believes a better option would have been to take the floating and secured damaged portion to a safe refuge where disposal options could be assessed. WWF hopes that the operation regarding the remainder of the MV Wakashio will follow such established practice, so the vessel can be dismantled and disposed of in a way that does not pose a threat to local ecosystems.

WWF remains deeply concerned by the amount of oil that leaked from the MV Wakashio and into the coastal waters of Mauritius, where it is coating beaches, coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves in a poisonous sludge and putting lagoon fisheries as well as whales, dolphins, seabirds and sea turtles at risk of toxic contamination.
There is also significant risk of potential long-term damage associated with sediment burial of oil, and then chronic impacts as the oil and other contaminants affect the food chain over the longer term. The shedding of potentially toxic anti-fouling coatings is also of concern, along with the physical damage to the reef from the grounding.

The priority now must be on removing as much of the oil as possible from the coastal system, managing the direct and indirect effects of the oil on wildlife and habitats, and assessing and responding to the impact of the spill on the communities and economic sectors.  

Natural resource damage assessment and restoration, and international support
We need "all hands on deck'' to support Mauritius in this crisis. We need environmental scientists and biological experts to quickly set up monitoring programmes to track the impact of the spill, including the potential contamination of fisheries and coastal sediments and habitats.

WWF calls for a natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) to determine the significance of impacts caused by this oil spill. The NRDA should include inputs from affected communities and the public, and experts should determine the extent of damage as well as best methods for restoration activities. The types of impacts that should be assessed include habitats and ecosystems, with special attention to species of importance for livelihoods or nutrition, and socio-economic impacts, including to the asset base on which the tourism industry depends. The NRDA should look at direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts. The establishment of a comprehensive monitoring programme is a top priority.

Shipping and oil spill response
The global community needs to mobilize to drive shipping reform and oil spill preparedness to prevent such spills from happening again. Vulnerable Small Island Developing States cannot be left to bear the burden of lost ocean productivity, clean-up and restoration on their own.

The regional oil spill contingency mechanism, led by the Indian Ocean Commission, and other relevant country groupings such as the Nairobi Convention, should draw lessons and implement policy solutions to prevent such occurrences, and hold those responsible to account if incidents do occur.

Of course, prevention is better than cure. WWF recommends routing measures to keep ships well away from sensitive areas, and ensuring mariners are aware of this via electronic charts and mapping.

Support to those affected
Support should be provided to the people most affected by the oil spill, in particular the fishing communities and those dependent on lagoon resources for nutrition and livelihoods. This includes support and advice on accessing compensation mechanisms, especially if they use an on-line format.

Oil spills are fully avoidable; when they occur, those responsible must be held accountable and funds for the clean-up must be released quickly. Too often, the process of securing compensation and payment takes years to be completed. We call on the company and the flag state to move quickly and release funds for the clean-up effort, when they can be put to immediate use. A comprehensive, independent investigation and inquiry should be launched with a commitment to making the findings public. However, securing funds for the clean-up should not wait until the findings of an inquiry.

Any compensation should also cover the implementation of a longer-term restoration plan for damaged natural resources, which may take years. These natural resources are the foundation for the food and livelihoods of coastal communities, as well as the basis for the country's tourism industry.

Blue economy and wildlife
Coastal tourism, fishing, seafood processing and seaport activities contribute over 10.5% of the Mauritian GDP, with total direct employment estimated at over 7,000, excluding coastal tourism.

The task of managing the rehabilitation and ultimate restoration of the affected habitats must be scaled up and resourced adequately to put Mauritius on the road to recovery, underpinned by a sustainable ocean-based economy.

Protecting populations of great whales is an important strategy for building a "blue economy." Globally, whale and dolphin watching is valued at over US$2 billion annually. Healthy populations of whales and coastal dolphins are crucial for sustainably managed tourism in Mauritius.

Globally, whales and dolphins rely on specific ocean habitats – areas where they feed, mate, give birth, or migrate – for their survival. Mauritius is a hub for a variety of iconic species. Humpback whales also make their epic migrations north from their summer feeding grounds off Antarctica to breed in the Southwest Indian Ocean.
1332 days ago

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Within the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in an area so remote that it can only be accessed by water or air, lies the Salonga National Park.

Extending over 33,350km2, Africa's largest forest national park is home to local and indigenous communities who share their home with 51 known species of mammals, 129 species of fish, and 223 species of birds, including forest elephants, bonobos, bongos, giant pangolins, and the endemic Congo peacock. 

Historical challenges and rising pressures
Unfortunately, Salonga has faced many years of turmoil as a result of civil conflict. This has resulted in significant instability.  People living in the region face terrible socio-economic hardship, with weak governance and a lack of services.

Salonga was classified as a World Heritage site in 1984. But its incredible biodiversity is under intense threat today from poaching and wildlife trafficking, which endanger its heritage status and, critically, the lives and livelihoods of the people who depend on its resources. The area has recently suffered from significant wildlife crime as poachers have targeted elephants for ivory. There is also a large commercial trade in bushmeat from the area to markets in Congolese cities.

Pressure on the government ecoguards tasked with protecting Salonga against such threats are an all too real challenge. And while their jobs are difficult and dangerous, violence by some government ecoguards against community members is an equally grave concern. There have been disturbing reports in recent years of some government ecoguards using inappropriate force against local community members. To assist efforts to hold accountable government rangers accused of criminal acts, WWF International commissioned a report from a local human rights group for the express purpose of assisting the government in holding any violent rangers to account. The investigative team reviewed substantial evidence relating to 21 allegations against rangers and/or military personnel and interviewed reported victims, witnesses, and accused. With even a single case of violation being one too many, especially for people that have been historically marginalized and discriminated against in the DRC, the findings of the recent report are distressing. WWF has and will continue to advocate for and fully support swift prosecution of any government ecoguard involved in any violence against community members.

Inclusive conservation
WWF's goal is to protect both people and nature in Salonga, towards our vision of a future in which both people and nature thrive.

As WWF and other conservation organisations make the call for an ambitious New Deal for Nature and People, including scientific targets that reverse nature loss, address the climate crisis, and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, we continue to advance strengthened approaches to conservation  that support Indigenous Peoples and local communities to secure rights and access to their collective lands and territories.

To date in Salonga, we've played a key role in the following actions:
  • Creation and official validation of 172.807 ha community forests, providing land rights to local communities achieved 3 community forests (13.000 ha) by indigenous BaTwa and further 250.000 ha of community forests in the park corridor in process of creation and validation.
  • 350 CLD (comités locaux de développement - local development committees) as well as 5 CARG (Conseil Agricole Rural de Gestion - Rural Agricultural Management Council), 3 CLER (Comité Local d'Entretien Routier - Local Road Maintenance Committee) and 171 Organisations paysannes (Farmer associations) set up. Working on rural development activities with partner organizations. A key focus of these interventions has been on conservation agriculture—measures to intensify farming as an alternative to slash and burn cropping, mainly by supporting farmer field schools and pilot farms, facilitating market access, supporting extension and setting up seed banks and nurseries. 
  • Supporting the development of two community health centers for the BaTwa, supported cottage industries (i.e. soap making) and invested in literacy education for the BaTwa people.
Our continued engagement with the government in Salonga National Park is conditioned on a mutual agreement to operationalize protections for human rights, including demonstrated commitment to systemic changes to ensure that human rights are given the highest priority.

While these discussions proceed, we are already engaged with the Government to identify and mitigate risks for communities related to conservation activities in Salonga, and in addition we are:
  • As part of WWF's enhanced Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework, working with the government's l'Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) to identify actions to reduce risks, including a mandatory guide of conduct to be signed by all government ecoguards, offering training and mentoring on human rights and calling for immediate consequences for any misconduct according to regulations in place in the DRC;
  • Taking steps to ensure all government ecoguards in Salonga undergo further training in human rights prior to being permitted to join patrols from Jan 2020 onwards; and 
  • Urgently advancing a new and strengthened grievance mechanism to be available to all community members in and around the park, to be run by an independent human rights organization.
With a recent biomonitoring assessment confirming relatively stable populations of elephants and bonobos -1,600 forest elephants and 15,000 bonobos – it is critical to ensure conservation also delivers positive impact for the people in Salonga who depend on its biodiversity the most. This is why we are looking to further improve our understanding of the local economy and market chains, promote and support GESI (Gender and Social Inclusivity) programming, and help adapt the landscape governance model to ensure local communities have a larger voice and role in its management. It is not an easy feat, but it is one we are wholly committed to and will remain so. 

As we work to help secure the long-term future of Salonga for the well-being of people and nature, both locally and worldwide, we remain fully committed to work together with partners and local communities to protect Salonga and the people who depend on it. 
1530 days ago

At WWF, we know that people and nature go hand in hand and local and indigenous communities must be a cornerstone of conservation efforts. It is the guiding principle that we hold ourselves to, and one that we are committed to continually review our work against, especially in the world's most complex, fragile places where people and nature are both at risk, such as the Messok Dja landscape in the Republic of Congo.
We are therefore deeply concerned with the findings of a draft report of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Social and Environmental Compliance Unit (SECU) due to be published for public consultation. As we aim to create positive impact for people and nature, the report highlights the underlying issues and challenges facing communities and organizations like ours on the ground that we have been working hard to address. We are especially distressed by the concerns raised regarding relationships between government-employed rangers and local communities, including allegations of abuse, and we are treating these as matters of highest importance. Any breach of our social and human rights commitments is unacceptable to us.
As we take a close look at the report's observations and analyse fully how the steps we have been putting in place can help further address the issues raised, it is important to note that some of the observations are limited to a field visit in February 2019 before reforms currently underway were in place, and the present draft contains various factual inaccuracies related to WWF's role and involvement in the government-led ETIC programme. We will continue to do all we can to address the deeper concerns raised, and tackle the challenges communities and civil society organizations like ours are confronted with in fragile, high-risk areas.

As the Republic of Congo considers possibilities to protect the Messok Dja forests from escalating pressures, we have been working very hard towards ensuring local communities and their voices are heard. In November 2019, on the basis of expert analyses we commissioned, we helped bring together representatives of 35 of the 37 concerned communities around Messok Dja, the two impacted logging companies, the government (delegation of Indigenous Peoples, delegation of Protected Areas, delegation of Forest Economy), CSOs together with the NGO consortium of Brainforest, Comptoir Juridique Junior and Cercle des Populations Autochtones de la Sangha, accompanied by a fourth NGO (FGDH) acting as an independent observer, 
to identify a way forward for Messok Dja, with communities and for communities.
Local people and communities must be stewards of conservation efforts. This is why we have been reviewing our approach in Messok Dja for the past 18 months, sharing updates here and here, to identify solutions together with the communities, and we will continue to do so, learning from and together with partners like UNDP.

Additional background:
We have officially written to UNDP to clarify the following inaccuraices in the current draft version of the SECU report:
Information on allegations: We are concerned that in the draft version of the report, SECU has not so far shared information that will enable the RoC authorities or ETIC to take further action on the allegations it raises. We have requested the SECU team to share its findings with us so we can act together to refer these to the competent authorities immediately and also take action against any WWF staff found to be in breach of our policies, processes and commitments.
The situation on the ground today: The report is based on observations from a field mission conducted almost a year ago and does not reflect the critical steps taken since in terms of grievance mechanisms, regular weekly meetings being held in villages to raise concerns, the progress made on collective stakeholder meetings and dialogue to discuss forest governance etc.
Current community access to Messok Dja: Messok Dja is currently part of two logging concessions and does not have a specific protected status. There is therefore no restriction of access for communities living in and around the forests and we are deeply concerned by the report's assertions on restrictions on community access.
WWF's role in the ETIC programme: ETIC is an entity which is distinct to WWF. While it is a collaboration between the government of the Republic of Congo and WWF, ETIC staff are formal employees of the state, their employment contract is signed by the Ministry MEFDDE (known as MEF now) and this includes government ecoguards. The staff working for WWF in the ETIC programme, namely the technical coordinator and staff, work on the basis of full time consultancy contracts with WWF. Also, while the total budget of the UNDP programme was at USD 23,807 million, the specific grant to WWF was for an amount of USD194,000. 
1534 days ago

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