WWF appoints Gina Barbieri as Ombudsperson in a first for conservation sector

Posted on March, 25 2021

Distinguished human rights lawyer and international mediator, Barbieri has two decades of experience in resolving environmental and social conflicts.
WWF today announced the appointment of distinguished human rights lawyer and international mediator, Gina Barbieri, as Ombudsperson for the global conservation network, the first role of such a kind for the nature conservation sector. A South African national, Barbieri has two decades of experience in resolving environmental and social conflicts, including in her most recent tenure as Principal Ombudsperson for the World Bank and related financial institutions.

 “Listening deeply to communities is an integral part of our work and we are pleased to have Gina Barbieri join us as an independent Ombudsperson to hold us accountable to our commitments and safeguards as we work to build a future where people and nature thrive together,” said Pavan Sukhdev, President, WWF International. “At a time when the connections between the well-being of people and nature are more evident than ever, we are hopeful that this ‘first’ for nature conservation charts the way forward for better, deeper and more inclusive conservation in all the areas we work around the world.”

 The office of the Ombudsperson will report directly to the President of WWF International with support from the International Board subcommittee and has complete independence from the executive both from a reporting and budgetary perspective.

 “Establishing a strong and independent accountability system that can address community concerns in a manner that is fair, predictable, and respectful of community agency, is critical for an institution working to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife” says Barbieri. “It creates a grassroots channel for communities to engage meaningfully with WWF, and will enhance WWF’s ability to respond to what it hears. I am excited to take up the position and build the relationships necessary to realize the mandate of the office in a meaningful way.” 

The appointment of Barbieri, expected to take office on 1 August 2021, is the first step toward the setting up of an office of the Ombudsperson, an ambition first announced by WWF in 2019 and endorsed in 2020 by the recent Independent Panel. WWF has committed to establish this office close to the key landscapes it works in.