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Forests and communities in the Congo Basin region face enormous threats, notably from destructive development models which often squander natural resources while having severe negative impacts on local populations. These threats are escalating, and hence assuring effective conservation measures both within and outside of protected areas is an urgent task.

It is not widely accepted that securing the rights of local people is critical to achieving this and yet the new people-friendly “conservation paradigm” called for at the 2003 World Parks Congress in Durban has failed to materialise in the Congo Basin. Protected areas in the region continue to be established and run without engaging local peoples and often in opposition to their rights and interests. Research carried out by RFUK and partner organisations’ on a sample of 34 protected areas has found widespread evidence that they often disregard customary land rights while conservation enforcement is consistently linked to diminished livelihoods as well as human rights abuses by anti-poaching agents.

As a result and despite hundreds of millions of US dollars in foreign aid, animosity and conflict between local communities and conservation agents prevails in most protected areas in the region, while biodiversity continues to decline. Addressing this is not only a matter of basic justice; it is also about making conservation more effective and sustainable.

Our campaign is calling for a shift away from the ‘guns and guards’ approach towards rights-based and inclusive conservation, including through the following actions:

  •  Assess effectiveness of existing protected areas and where necessary review management arrangements of existing protected areas so that they reflect the social context and realities
  • Promote alternative rights-based conservation models as a means for countries to achieve the binding UN target of having 17% percent land mass designated as protected areas  

Improve accountability of governments, conservation organisations and donors to local communities including through capacity building of local actors to monitor human rights compliance in and around protected areas, seek remedy and push for change in their countries

For more information about the impacts and effectiveness conservation in the Congo Basin, please download this report ‘Protected areas in the Congo Basin: Failing both People and Biodiversity?

For news, views and discussion about the real impacts of protected area policy and practice in the Global South, visit Conservation Watch



Read more about Protected Areas download here

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