in Cameroon

WWF responds to REDD-Monitor’s questions about its partnership with logging company Rougier in Cameroon. After only 16 months. The questions are only partially answered. And the answers are woefully inadequate

RougierIn June 2016, REDD-Monitor wrote about WWF’s partnership with Rougier, a French logging company, in Cameroon. Survival International had accused WWF of partnering with a company that is logging the forests without the consent of the local indigenous Baka communities. REDD-Monitor followed up some questions to WWF about its partnership with the loggers.

Sixteen months later, I have received some answers to my questions.

I sent the questions on 8 June 2016 to Annabelle Ledoux and Marielle Chaumien at WWF France. I sent the questions to them because their contact details are listed as sources of further information in a news release that WWF put out in January 2016, one year after the partnership with Rougier started.

On 10 June 2016, Phil Dickie replied. At the time Dickie was in charge of “issues management” at WWF International. Because my questions were “quite broadranging”, Dickie told me he’d have to make “a few internal inquiries”. He also asked if he could “go through some essential context off the record”.

And that was that. I didn’t hear anything further from Dickie. In November 2016, he left WWF.

Last week, I sent another series of questions to WWF. The questions related to a recent report by Survival International about WWF’s conservation operations in the Congo Basin. One of my questions asked why WWF hadn’t replied to my questions about the partnership with Rougier, and when I could expect an answer.

This time, ​Frederick Kwame Kumah, director of WWF’s Regional Office in Africa, replied. You can read the full interview on Conservation Watch.

Here are my questions about WWF and Rougier, followed by Kumah’s answers. Kumah didn’t answer the questions individually. I’ve put the relevant parts of his response below the question he seems to be answering. REDD-Monitor’s comments are in in red.

REDD-Monitor: As far as I’m aware, WWF has not responded to the accusations made by Survival International that WWF is partnering with a company that is logging without the consent of the local indigenous Baka communities. Why has WWF not responded?

What is WWF’s response to Survival International’s accusations?

Frederick Kwame Kumah: The statement issued by WWF-Cameroon locally at the time (May 2016) can be found attached. The statement by Rougier is also available here.

R-M comment: WWF’s statement is dated two days after Survival International’s piece. But it does not address the question of whether Rougier has the consent of the Baka communities. Instead, WWF states that, “WWF’s partnership with different forestry companies such as Rougier takes place within a broader framework to ensure that these companies operate not only legally but also under sustainable forest management and, moreover, according to internationally recognized FSC standards.” But as one of REDD-Monitor’s questions (below) notes, the company had limited information about local communities when Rainforest Alliance carried out its assessment in 2012.

REDD-Monitor: Did WWF consult with the Baka communities living in and near Rougier’s concessions in Cameroon before entering into the partnership with Rougier (i.e. before Rougier became a member of WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network in October 2009)? Was a process of free, prior and informed consent carried out with the Baka communities before October 2009? Could you please describe this process. If no FPIC process was carried out, please explain why not.

R-M comment: Kumah did not answer this question.

REDD-Monitor: It is clear from Rainforest Alliance’s Forest Stewardship Council audit reports that the company had limited information about local communities when the assessment was carried out in November 2012. Rainforest Alliance wrote: “SFID is at the beginning stages in obtaining information and awareness of local communities to process their customary use rights”. This is clearly in breach of FSC’s Principle 3 on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. How can the certificate be awarded in this situation?

R-M comment: Kumah did not answer this question.

REDD-Monitor: This seems to be a bizarre process – Rougier appears to be responsible for explaining to the Baka communities what rights they have. Yet Rougier is impinging on those rights, through its logging activities. Is WWF playing any role in this process?

R-M comment: Kumah did not answer this question.

REDD-Monitor: Why did WWF decide to partner with Rougier, rather than with the Baka communities?

Frederick Kwame Kumah: We have been working in the Congo Basin for several decades acutely aware of the opportunities and challenges in protecting its valuable natural resources. Over the years, our experience has shown us that sustainability needs to be a joint priority and we need to engage diverse actors and entities to create lasting impact. This includes indigenous communities who are important stewards of the environment as well as companies who, given the scale and scope of their impact and activities, can be key drivers for change.

In Cameroon, even as we work together with indigenous communities like the Baka to help promote and protect their rights through conservation, we provide technical advice and guidance to companies that hold legal licenses issued by the government to operate, to engage them in responsible forest management practices according to internationally recognized standards such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). We insist on these companies adhering to strict guidelines and practices which include transparency, measurable conservation outcomes, due diligence and respect for WWF’s independence and mission. When made aware of any concrete instances of deviation from our stated conservation principles, we have not shied away from dissociating with companies – for example, the participation of Decolvenaere in the Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) was terminated in May 2015 when the company decided not to pursue FSC certification. SEFAC and Danzer were also terminated from GFTN, in 2009 and 2013 respectively.

REDD-Monitor: There are three articles on the GFTN website about WWF’s partnership with Rougier:

Only the first of these mentions the word “indigenous”. Why does GFTN put so little priority on indigenous peoples and their rights?

R-M comment: Kumah did not answer this question.

REDD-Monitor: In 2011, Global Witness produced a report about GFTN titled “Pandering to the loggers”. WWF responded. Global Witness replied. WWF announced that it would carry out a review of GFTN. In May 2012, the review was completed. Please send me a copy of the review – and please explain why the review is not posted on the GFTN website. What reforms has WWF carried out to the GFTN process as a result of the review?

Frederick Kwame Kumah:The GFTN review is available online here.

R-M comment: The link that Kumah gives is the same as one of the links in the question I sent. Obviously, I’d already seen that page on the GFTB website. Three documents can be downloaded from that page:

  • A factsheet about GFTN, written in April 2012.
  • A 12-page summary of the report “Programme Evaluation of the Global Forest & Trade Network for Business Plan Period FY2008-2011”, written by Daphne Hewitt and Andrew Sutherland of the IDL Group (dated 28 March 2012).
  • WWF management’s response to IDL Group’s evaluation (dated 18 May 2012).

None of these documents is the review itself, which is what I was asking for. In any case, IDL Group’s evaluation was not the independent review of GFTN that Global Witness recommended.

In its report, Pandering to the Loggers, Global Witness recommended that,

GFTN must undergo an independent, comprehensive evaluation, providing full access to all GFTN information not publicly available; this evaluation should assess:

  • membership rules, transparency, performance and monitoring
  • performance of all past and present GFTN member companies
  • criteria and coordination gaps between GFTN and its country offices
  • impact of the scheme on the livelihoods of forest dependent communities
  • impact of the scheme on actual forest sustainability

IDL Group admits that it did not “conduct field-level analysis”. In its summary of the evaluation IDL Group writes,

In July 2011, Global Witness produced a report, “Pandering to the Loggers”, which criticised several aspects of the GFTN programme, highlighting certain activities and making specific allegations against some programme participants. The report made a series of recommendations for improvements to GFTN, including the need for a programme-wide evaluation. However, it was not within the scope of this evaluation to examine in detail each of the allegations made in the Global Witness report, but the report did help to inform the analysis as the evaluation team examined the implementation and working of GFTN programme systems and structures, and their associated risks.

IDL Group’s summary states that, “the evaluation team focussed on concerns which the evaluation was best-placed to verify or reject, and provided a detailed response in the full report”.

The full report is not available on GFTN’s website. Kumah told me that, “The GFTN review is available online here.” But at the end of that page on WWF’s website is a note that states, “A full copy of the evaluation report is available upon request.”

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  1. What was the point of their reply to you when they really did not have any answers for you? Scratching my head here.

  2. @Robert Hii – Kumah’s reply was part of a longer interview (available on Conservation Watch). I’ve no idea why he would answer so vaguely, when the questions I asked (16 months ago) are quite specific.

    Obviously, WWF didn’t get the free, prior and informed consent of the Baka indigenous people before entering into a partnership with Rougier – otherwise Kumah would have answered that question in the affirmative. That means that WWF is in breach of its statement of principles on indigenous peoples and conservation, which states that,

    WWF will not promote or support, and may actively oppose, interventions which have not received the prior free and informed consent of affected indigenous communities, and/or would adversely impact – directly or indirectly – on the environment of indigenous peoples’ territories, and/or would affect their rights.