WWF statement on Salonga National Park in the DRC

Posted on December, 11 2019

WWF is suspending its support toward field patrols in Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with immediate effect as of Wednesday 11 December 2019. The decision comes as local police authorities investigate a tragic case of a body found in the park. We will consider lifting this suspension once the authorities have completed their investigation and can confirm that swift and decisive action will be taken against any party found to be guilty.  

We are deeply committed to securing the long term future of forests and biodiversity for people and nature in challenging contexts like Salonga. We therefore continue our support toward critical community development work with local and indigenous communities living in and around Salonga while the suspension of support to field patrols is in place. This includes activities related to community forestry, conservation agriculture, market access and development of value chains, community and governance support structures and piloting the grievance mechanism as well as rolling out WWF’s enhanced Environmental and Social Safeguards.

Update 7 February 2020:
1) WWF has confirmation from the DRC government that it has referred the case to the Military Tribunal, which has jurisdiction in the case of eco-guards, for appropriate action. WWF has now lifted the suspension and is now undertaking discussions with the Government of DRC on the terms under which WWF would be able to move forward as a conservation partner in Salonga National Park. Our engagement is conditioned on agreement to operationalize protections for human rights, including demonstrated commitment to systemic changes which would ensure that human rights are given highest priority.

2) As part of our commitment to act decisively on any instances of abuse brought to our attention, WWF International recently received the results of its continued efforts to help identify, document, and support the prosecution of historic allegations of human rights violations in Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In July 2019, WWF International announced continued efforts to address inquiries begun in an earlier investigation in February 2019. This further investigation focused on incidents previously identified and requiring additional research, as well as new allegations uncovered, including those raised by UK-based NGO RFUK in April 2019 (most dated prior to 2016 before WWF became co-manager). The findings of the report are highly distressing, and we are addressing them as a matter of the highest priority. The WWF International Compliance Unit will work with WWF –DRC, and as needed local human rights advocates, to track the cases through the judicial system, and will share regular updates with relevant partners. More information here.