WWF embraces Independent Review’s recommendations

Posted on 24 November 2020

  • Panel assessed charity’s approach to human rights, with particular reference to supporting  government rangers, and called for greater rigour in implementation of its policies.
  • Panel found no evidence that WWF staff participated in or encouraged any abuse of human rights.
  • The charity reaffirms its commitment to the communities with whom it works. 
WWF today published ‘Embedding Human Rights into Nature Conservation: from Intent to Action’, a report from an Independent Panel it commissioned last year to review WWF’s role in relation to reported human rights abuses by some government rangers in the most complex and remote areas where it works. 
The Panel, chaired by former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Judge Navi Pillay, set out a number of recommendations on how to better integrate human rights into conservation.
The Panel found no evidence that WWF staff participated in or encouraged abuses of human rights.  When reports of abuses were raised, our staff took action in response, but the Panel found that we did not consistently fulfil all of our commitments to communities in every landscape where we work.
WWF embraces the Panel’s recommendations. 
“Human rights abuses are never acceptable under any circumstances and go against our core values. That is why we commissioned this independent report,” said Pavan Sukhdev, President, WWF International
“WWF works with communities around the world and we recognize our responsibility to listen to their voices, advocate for their rights, and engage them in our work. It is deeply saddening to all of us that people have suffered” said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International
“We take the Panel’s recommendations very seriously, and we commit to address all of them, in addition to actions we’ve already taken to better meet our commitments to communities,” Lambertini continued. 
The Panel also called for us to more clearly advocate for governments to fulfil their responsibility for protecting human rights - including with regard to government rangers who are implicated in these types of abuses. 
WWF has already changed its global approach to working in the most challenging regions of the world, which is directly aligned with the Panel’s recommendations. We have improved the ways communities can raise their concerns, changed our systems to centrally screen and approve high-risk projects, and we are prepared to suspend support to projects if our commitments to human rights cannot be met.
We will regularly and transparently assess our progress, beginning in 2021.
Editor’s notes: 

Please find here the WWF Response and the detailed Management Response, which outlines our actions related to each recommendation. We have already acted to begin:
  • Establishing effective grievance mechanisms in every country in which WWF works so complaints from communities can be raised, received, tracked, and addressed. The Human Rights Centre in the Central African Republic (set up in 2016), which the Panel praised as a best practice, is WWF’s model for integrated grievance mechanisms in complex landscapes. 
  • Strengthening its social and environmental safeguards, a mandatory set of actions to better engage communities, identify and manage risks, and ensure consistency in our field work. These have been approved by all WWF boards worldwide (since July 2019), and implementation is led by a new dedicated Global Safeguards Unit; 
  • More firmly using WWF’s influence to support human rights, and preparing WWF’s in-country teams to suspend or withdraw from projects if the safeguards are not met; 
  • In the process of establishing an office of the Independent Ombudsperson that will hold WWF accountable to our commitments and safeguards, and will provide conflict resolution services to communities in which it works; 
  • Taking additional steps to help reduce conflicts between communities and government rangers, such as making human rights training mandatory for WWF’s projects that involve enforcement and helping establish the Universal Ranger Support Alliance (in 2020), an international coalition dedicated to professionalizing rangers, including developing a global code of conduct. 
  • Mandating all high-risk conservation projects are screened by a new, high-level global risk committee of WWF’s leading conservation experts; 
  • Building staff capacity, including having trained all 7,500 staff around the world on its new safeguards system; 
  • Incorporating WWF’s commitments to safeguards and human rights in relevant agreements.
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