WWF statement on the Initial Assessment of the Swiss National Contact Point for the OECD

21 December 2016

WWF is fully committed to ensuring that conservation work has positive impacts for all people. For more than two decades, WWF has dedicated itself to finding lasting solutions to protect forests and wildlife vital to the Baka community in Cameroon.

During our years of work in Cameroon, WWF has worked closely with the Baka people and other local communities on the establishment of protected areas and strongly advocated for the rights of indigenous people. WWF has worked strenuously to obtain improved recognition and rights for the Baka community. 

Members of Cameroon’s civil society, including WWF-Cameroon, recognize that there is clearly more work to be done to improve conditions for the Baka people. WWF has raised with Cameroon’s Ministry of Forests and Wildlife the necessity to improve mechanisms for the reception and resolution of incidents of alleged conflicts or abuses and to take appropriate measures in substantiated instances, including any involving government ecoguards.

In addition to playing a critical role in creating the first-ever Baka-managed community forest in Southeast Cameroon, WWF has urged and facilitated the employment of Baka ecoguards as well as provided human rights training for ecoguards. WWF is also currently engaged in support for a ministry review of ecoguard conduct, use of traditional community sanctions and exploring possibilities of community and collaborative policing.

WWF takes any and all allegations of human rights violations extremely seriously. We have worked over the years to verify any alleged abuses, and we have taken all appropriate measures to address allegations brought to our attention, including communicating these to the appropriate authorities.

WWF has consistently been, and continues to be, open to dialogue in order to contribute to the furtherance of the rights of local communities. WWF has always welcomed the opportunity to genuinely discuss how to improve conditions for the Baka so that people and nature can thrive in Cameroon.

WWF believes that it is our collective responsibility as civil society to work collaboratively and to communicate in good faith toward a sustainable and just society. We therefore find it regrettable that Survival International has not accepted our offer to work together on the ground to address the complex social and political context facing the Baka in Cameroon.

In continuation of its cooperation with the Swiss National Contact Point (NCP) for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), WWF welcomes the efforts of the NCP to offer a voluntary process to attempt to find measures to support Cameroon's Baka community. WWF does so even as we disagree with turning the OECD Guidelines, designed for commercial enterprises, into a mechanism for resolving issues between two non-profit organizations.
WWF will continue to be guided by the firm belief that any mediation aimed at creating a lasting solution for the Baka people will come from direct engagement between all stakeholders in Cameroon. We believe the discussion about the real needs of this vulnerable community should happen constructively within the country by engaging the government and the Baka people, and we look forward to working with the NCP to that end.

WWF has worked in Cameroon during complicated times of conflict and uncertainty with the purpose of ensuring participatory processes that benefit all. WWF is committed to continue doing everything in its power to protect the Baka and other local communities – as well as the natural environment these communities depend on – and is always seeking ways to improve in order to safeguard the needs of people alongside conservation of nature wherever it works.

WWF notes the NCP’s affirmation that its initial assessment is not in any way a judgment and that it should not be considered a determination on the merits of the issues raised in the submission.

Frederick Kwame Kumah, Director of WWF's Regional Office in Africa, said:
“Protecting the rights of local communities has been, and continues to be, a priority in all of WWF’s work. This is true in Africa, around the world and in Cameroon where we have worked during challenging times to develop ways of collaborating with indigenous peoples through direct engagement with the Baka people and other local communities.

“Lasting solutions must not be decided for the Baka people, they must be forged with the Baka people, other local communities and the Cameroon government. We hope the Swiss NCP provides an additional opportunity to develop such a dialogue in Cameroon and to bring awareness to the conditions of the Baka community in Cameroon and to further improve their rights.

“WWF has worked tirelessly over many years to join the interests and rights of the Baka community with the need to safeguard Cameroon’s most important natural areas that these very communities depend on. It is WWF's position, therefore, to seek dialogue and engagement with all parties from within the country so that it can find the very best solutions to such complex challenges.

“WWF's long history of work in Cameroon is based on the consistent belief that conservation can only be effective if it has positive impacts for – and the support of – indigenous peoples and local communities. WWF continually strives to improve its work and remains committed to doing everything within its power to safeguard the rights of the Baka people.”

Confidentiality Note: The OECD process is subject to confidentiality that extends to all parties. WWF will continue to uphold this principle. Notwithstanding the need to abide by the confidentiality of these proceedings, WWF is prepared to continue to demonstrate its decades-long commitment to work together positively and constructively with all parties to ensure that we support communities and conservation in our work.
Editors Notes:
For more about how WWF combines the needs of people and conservation, click here