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THE US Congress has heard accusations that the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has indulged in “shocking deception” over reports of crimes as serious as rape, torture and murder by rangers in its pay.
A hearing by the US house natural resources committee saw the WWF face unprecedented attack over human rights abuses and its refusal to take responsibility for them.
Survival International’s Fiore Longo called it “the conservation industry’s equivalent of the Abu Ghraib scandal.”
The human rights organisation, which focuses on defence of indigenous and tribal peoples, says a conservation model that sees native residents forcibly removed from areas earmarked for nature conservation has facilitated abuse on a huge scale over decades.
Professor John Knox, who sat on a review commissioned by WWF itself to investigate alleged abuses, said the reported crimes “highlight the continued impacts of colonialism in conservation: the old way of doing conservation, Westerners coming into a country, setting up a national park with strict borders and ridding the area of its inhabitants, is still causing conflict today.”
Prof Knox said WWF was disingenuous in its presentation of the review’s findings and accused it of being “in denial.”
The review in question cleared WWF of complicity in violent abuses by conservation rangers last November, but found it had been inconsistent in human rights policy.
It did not dispute the existence of serious abuses but said the personnel involved were managed by governments, not the conservation charity.
Californian Democratic Congressman Alan Lowenthal said he was “absolutely shocked by the human rights violations and treatment of local and indigenous communities that have been reported.”
Survival’s Director Caroline Pearce observed: “WWF is not unique in how it behaves: this kind of abuse is deeply embedded in the traditional conservation model, which is directly in conflict with human rights and particularly indigenous rights.
“For decades it has been not just ignored but supported by huge, Establishment conservation organisations, who pull in massive governmental and corporate funding while turning a blind eye to atrocities against indigenous and other local communities.
“Their theft of vast areas of indigenous lands in the name of nature conservation is … a modern colonialism.”
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