World Heritage Committee fails to consider indigenous peoples’ rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo

27 June, 2018

The Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo was established in 1971 at which point the indigenous Batwa communities living in the area designated as the new national park were evicted. They were pushed into dwellings in the border areas of the park and have in the subsequent years become impoverished and lost significant cultural and linguistic heritage bound up in their use of their traditional lands.

The site was then inscribed as a World Heritage Natural Site in 1981 at which time no mention was made by the World Heritage Committee of the indigenous communities associated with the site.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, which reviewed the situation of the Batwa in around Kahuzi-Biega in 2003 as part of a review of the status of Indigenous peoples in Africa, highlighted the consequences of the evictions on the Batwa:

Land should have been given to the Batwa, but this did not happen. Now the Batwa are forbidden to hunt in the park, and forbidden to collect park products. They have no food resources or medicinal plants, and the forest is no longer their place of worship. The Batwa have been culturally and psychologically shattered by the loss of their forests.[1]

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Global Dialogue on Human Rights and Biodiversity Conservation

16 April, 2018

Read the report here

In November 2017, the Global Dialogue on Human Rights and Biodiversity Conservation was initiated to address the conflicts that have often emerged across the globe between conservation agencies and Indigenous peoples with longstanding relationships to their ancestral territories. Three underlying questions have been examined from different angles during the dialogue:

1) why conflicts between Indigenous peoples and nature conservation interests still arise;

2) how to avoid them happening;

3) how active conflicts might be resolved.

The Dialogue process produced a bouquet of observations and suggestions to feed into ongoing processes, such as the development of the Post 2020 Aichi Targets of the CBD, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues initiative regarding Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Conservation Standards and Mechanism, and the IUCN World Conservation Congress; all connected to the overarching Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2030.

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Urgent appeal to UNESCO and IUCN: human rights violations in Kahuzi-Biega National Park (DRC)

29 January, 2018

An urgent letter has been sent from six concerned organisations to the World Heritage Centre in UNESCO and the World Heritage Programme in IUCN to highlight human rights abuses in a World Heritage listed natural site in the Democratic Republic of Congo - the Kahuzi-Biega National Park.

Read the letter here

The letter asks The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to ensure that the World Heritage Committee considers persistent human rights violations against the indigenous Batwa communities resident around the park in their consideration of the site in the up-coming Committee session in June/July this year (

The signatory organisations are: Centre d’Accompagnement des Autochtones Pygmées et Minoritaires Vulnérables / Centre of Assistance for Indigenous Pygmy Peoples and Vulnerable Minorities (CAMV), FPP, Minority Rights International, Rainforest Foundation Norway, Environnement Ressources Naturelles et Développement (ERND Institute) and the International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).

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Dialogue on Human Rights and Biodiversity Conservation, Kenya

27 October, 2017

Between November 20-23, FPP is co-organising a Global Dialogue on Human Rights and Biodiversity Conservation, along with SwedBio, Natural Justice and IUCN CEESP-TGER. We will be hosted by the Chepkitale Indigenous Peoples Development Project, and the meeting will take place at Kitale, in Kenya's Rift Valley, and up on the Chepkitale Ogiek's community lands at Mt Elgon.

We will be bringing together 50 participants from the worlds of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use experts, legal and human rights, government, international development, conservation, as well as members of community-based organisations including indigenous peoples. We aim to spark a dialogue across conservation and human rights, and encourage the transformation of conflicts into productive relationships. This will be a space for frank and open dialogue to improve existing approaches, tools, and practices for ensuring that respect for human rights strengthens the ability to achieve conservation targets, and for ensuring that securing conservation targets strengthens respect for human rights.

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A young Batwa boy has been killed in a national park while trying to access traditional medicine

31 August, 2017

A young Batwa boy has been shot dead after being found in a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo with his father.

On Saturday 26 August, the boy and his father were shot at by eco-guards. The father was badly wounded but escaped but his son was killed.

They were collecting medicinal plants to treat an illness, carrying nothing but machetes as they sought to find the necessary herbs in the forest, their ancestral lands.

Pacifique Mukumbwa, Director of CAMV, a Bukavu-based support organisation, explains what happened:

“On the morning of Saturday, 26 August, Munganga Nakulire, accompanied by his child Christian Mbone Nakulire, decided to go to the Kahuzi Bièga National Park to take care of his child, who suffers from diarrhoea.

“They arrived on the Bahaya Hill in the middle of the Kahuzi Bièga National Park, where they came across four eco-guard trackers. Suddenly one of them opened fire and shot at Munganga Nakulire, who was seriously injured in his right arm. He managed to escape despite his injury, leaving behind his child who was shot in cold blood while trying to hide.”

The father was very lucky to escape despite being shot in the arm. He was able to raise the alarm with the Batwa community, who sent a search party into the forest to look for Christian.

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Indigenous peoples and conservation: a call to action

10 May, 2017

The United Nations’ Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has made a series of recommendations to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of conservation activities.

The Permanent Forum met in New York, and, as part of the proceedings, heard from Milka Chepkorir, a Sengwer woman from Kenya, who presented a joint statement on behalf of Forest Peoples Programme, Natural Justice and 20 other organisations. The statement highlighted the lack of implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the context of conservation policies and practices.

Read the joint statement here

Milka Chepkorir shared with delegates recent human rights infringements from Kenya, where well over 90 Sengwer homes were burned down, allegedly by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), a government body. The incident was not isolated but was one of many forced evictions resulting in the destruction of Sengwer homes since the 1970s: evictions that have intensified since first the World Bank and now the EU began funding KFS. The apparent justification for the human rights violations is that the Sengwer should not be on conserved areas, yet, under international law and according to Kenyan Constitution, the Sengwer have a right to their ancestral lands, lands they have occupied – and indeed have conserved effectively - for generations.

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Violence escalates against the Sengwer of Embobut Forest, Kenya

4 April, 2017

Shortly after a visit from an EU delegation last week, Kenya Forest Service (KFS) guards based at Tangul, Kipsitono and Maron KFS camps carried out intensive evictions according to Sengwer witnesses, with KFS allegedly having since burnt down over 90 Sengwer homes and destroyed their property.

The Sengwer of Embobut Forest, Kenya, had requested a visit by the EU delegation to be able to explain why they fear that the EU funded WaTER conservation project will have the same drastic impact on their community as the previous World Bank Natural Resource Management Project (NRMP) project.

In particular, the Sengwer are concerned that the EU project will strengthen the ability of the KFS to evict them from their ancestral lands, thereby leaving them and their forests in peril. After agreeing to the visit, an EU delegation met with the Sengwer on the 29th and 30th March allowing the community to explain their situation.

The follow on action by KFS guards was almost immediate. Unlike during previous evictions, the Sengwer are shocked that KFS guards are now shooting with live bullets. On the 2nd April, one of the Sengwer youth leaders, activist and photographer Elias Kimaiyo was shot at, and had an arm broken, by a KFS guard. Before being attacked, Elias was taking pictures of burning Sengwer homes, as he has been doing over the last few years, to record KFS guards’ destruction of his community’s homes and property, and the harassment of his people.

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How can the EU WaTER Project help secure, not undermine, human rights in Kenya?

9 December, 2016

There is increasing concern from local, national and international civil society about the human rights implications of the EU’s €31 million Water Tower Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Project (WaTER) that is focused on an area of Kenya with deeply troubling human rights issues.

Both of the indigenous peoples concerned, the Ogiek of Mt. Elgon and the Sengwer of the Cherangany Hills, have suffered a running history of gross human rights violations in the form of mass forced evictions by government conservation agencies, principally the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). These evictions take the form of KFS guards, often with police support, burning down community members’ houses, incinerating their possessions (food, blankets etc.) and leaving families exposed to the cold and to hunger.

Forest protection provides the pretext for these evictions, but the forests are the ancestral home of the Ogiek and Sengwer whose capacity to care for and protect their forests is being wholly undermined by these actions. In contrast, their rights to their lands are recognised in Article 63 2 d of the Kenyan Constitution and in the 2016 Community Land Act.

In line with the constitution and international best conservation practice, forest communities in Kenya have proposed to secure their collective customary tenure on conservation conditions so that they can be supported by state agencies to conserve their ancestral lands rather than be forcibly evicted from them; their evictions leave their forests at the mercy of extractive forces.

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IUCN: Steps must be made to address the power imbalance against indigenous peoples

4 Septiembre de, 2016

Steps will be made to grow the Whakatane Mechanism into a device that can help redress power imbalances against indigenous peoples, and become a conflict resolution tool that can be available to all for the long-term.

The decision was made as part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, being held in Hawai’i until September 10. One of the events hosted by Forest Peoples Programme, Can Whakatane Conflict Resolution Processes Snowball to the Global? Resolving community/conservation conflicts brought together some 36 experts in their field to talk about the tension that occurs when indigenous peoples lose their rights to their land because it is designated as a national park or protected area. This frequently occurs despite their having been custodians of the land and the ecosystem for generations, and their presence and care for their lands being the reason why conservationists see value in it.

Introducing the event, UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Vicky Tauli-Corpuz said: “People should really realise that these indigenous peoples have been living there for so long and have managed to save the forests, and save the marine life. They should be able to continue living there. What is it that’s making it so difficult?”

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Progress made on recognising rights of communities - World Conservation Congress motions

1 Septiembre de, 2016

Progress has been made on the issue of recognising the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities where protected areas have been created on their lands.

Ahead of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s World Conservation Congress, Forest Peoples Programme put forward a motion to strengthen the practice of the Whakatane Mechanism, which uses fact-finding field missions and multi-stakeholder meetings to resolve conflict between different parties in complex situations and so achieve a win-win for communities and conservation.

As the results of the motions were today revealed, the motion – Motion 80 – was passed by a majority of 497 to 20, with 326 abstentions.

The approval of this motion will help raise awareness of the Whakatane Mechanism as a tool that has proved successful in resolving conflicts in areas which have been given official ‘protected’ status, while also being the ancestral homes of indigenous peoples and local communities. These communities’ way of life frequently integrates traditional conservation methods, and the mechanism is a way to bring the parties together in a peaceful setting to understand different perspectives and seek a resolution that meets the needs of all.

Motion 29 was also passed, by a count of 637 to 20, with 186 abstentions. This motion called for recognition that many indigenous peoples and local communities care for, self-govern, protect, sustainably use, restore and enrich their territories.

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