MRG and other NGOs concerned over the EU’s planned NaturAfrica initiative
Minority Rights Group International (MRG), Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and Forest Peoples Programme published today an open letter to the European Commission expressing concerns over its plans for a new flagship biodiversity programme in Africa. The three NGOs fear that “as it stands, the programme risks further entrenching a flawed and unsustainable conservation model that has led to serious human rights abuses and dispossession of some of the world’s most vulnerable people while doing little for ecosystems in Africa”.
The programme, called NaturAfrica, was announced in December 2019 as part of the so-called ‘European Green Deal‘. NaturAfrica officially aims at “tackling biodiversity loss by creating a network of protected areas to protect wildlife and offer opportunities in green sectors for local populations”. While welcoming the EU’s commitment against the risks posed by a loss of biodiversity in Africa, the NGOs expressed their concern over “some of the assumptions made in the document, an apparent lack of learning from previous EU-funding interventions in the region and also by what is absent from the text”.
In particular, it appears that the document fails to recognise the past problems and conservation-related abuses in Africa in relation to protected areas, as well as the absence of any rights-based approach to conservation. While ignoring important human factors such as poverty, the document rests on patchy analyses and gravely underestimates the risks posed by top-down conservation restrictions and heavy-handed enforcement in terms of conflicts.
“The EU should seize this moment by promoting and securing approaches that protect the rights of and empower those best placed to protect the world’s resources”, explain the three organisations. “This is all the more pressing as the world is looking to secure effective, meaningful and concrete ways to address the biodiversity and climate crises that we face.”